Abuja — In a bid to reinvigorate the fighting capacity of the armed forces in the face of rising insurgency and widespread kidnappings across the country, the federal government said it procured four ships, 37 aircraft and 35 armoured tanks among other weaponry in the past three years.
The government said the decision followed the realisation that most military platforms and hardware had become obsolete and worn out even as it recruited 30,000 personnel within the period under review.
As a strategy designed to curb armed banditry and terrorism, the government also plans intensified military action against terrorists and bandits, citing a United Nations recent data on the proliferation of small arms in Nigeria that held that three million rifles were in the hands of non-state actors.
Presenting a paper at a meeting with Northern Traditional Rulers at the Arewa House in Kaduna, the Minister of Defence, Brigadier General Mansur Dan-Ali, said government made efforts to provide funds for the acquisition of modern equipment for the armed forces.
The minister said some of the equipment were already in service, while new purchases were at different levels of production while some awaited delivery.
He said modern platforms and equipment were required to cope with the present security challenges noting that a large percentage of the nation's weapons stock holding was expended in the fight against terrorism in the North-east.
"It is worthy of note that since the outbreak of insurgency in the North-east, the Armed Forces has expended a large percentage of its weapons stock holding in the fight against the insurgents. Hence, the weapon stock of the Armed Forces has greatly depleted.
"It is also pertinent to note that budgetary appropriation to the Armed Forces has not been adequate to procure required arms, ammunitions, platforms and equipment for the Armed Forces to consolidate on the gains recorded. Hence, the need to source for special intervention funds to address these exigencies issues of procurement for the past 3 years", he said.
Dan-Ali said "the state of the nation's security assets has been of great concern as most of the platforms and hardware of the Armed Forces have become worn out and obsolete. So far, tremendous efforts have been made by this Administration to provide funds for acquisition of modern equipment for the Armed Forces to confront the current security challenges.
"The equipment and platforms procured include 35 Armoured Tanks, 25 Typhoon MRAPs, 10 Spartan APCs, 20 Armoured Guard Booths, five Armoured Mine Clearing Vehicles, 50 TCVs and 40 Buffalo Vehicles, among others for the Nigerian Army.
"Also, four Ships, 182 Rigid Hull Inflatable and Epenal Boats, four Inshore Patrol Craft, two STAN Patrol Vessels and one Helicopter have been procured for the Nigerian Navy.
"Additionally, the Nigerian Air Force has benefited from the acquisition of modern platforms with 25 Fixed Wing Aircraft and 12 Helicopters. Several of these equipment are already in service while the new ones being procured are at different levels of production with some awaiting delivery", he said.
On terrorism and armed banditry, the minister emphasised government's determination to intensify military action against insurgents and armed bandits.
"The need for intensified military action against the group is very vital. Foot soldiers and aerial surveillance need to be effectively employed in nooks and cranny of their hideouts with a view to flushing them out permanently.
"Affected state governments need to collaborate more with security to flush out the bandits out rightly without attracting collateral damage during the raids. While the Air Force is carrying out the raids, the foot soldiers should block and stop the bandits from escaping to other areas to cause havoc.
"The recent claim by my emirs needs to be looked into. I brought out a statistics of bombardment of civilians globally thus, such unfortunate incidences are not peculiar to Nigeria alone", he said.
The Defence minister cited a United Nations data to the effect that three million rifles were in the hands of non-state actors.
"As at date, the UN posit that there are well over three million small arms in the hands of non-state actors in Nigeria. The three million rifles in the hands of militants across the country translate to about 3,866 units using the UN standard of 776 personnel in a standard army battalion.
"The most worrisome is the fact that most of those weapons are probably more lethal than those in the hands of the security agencies. However, Mr President's relentless and continuous efforts of finding lasting solutions to the security challenges are most appreciated.
"He has provided an enabling environment for the Armed Forces to operate and inspire our forces to attain successes in the fight against terrorism and insecurity in the country. The tremendous efforts and sacrifice of members of the Armed Forces have ensured remarkable success in the country", he
The minister urged the traditional rulers to show greater commitment in collaborating with the armed forces to contain terrorism, banditry and kidnapping.
"Security is a shared responsibility, the recent statement made by my Public Relation Officer was not meant to discredit these august gathering of highly professional indifferent sector of science and humanities field, but to serve as warning to some community leaders and their surrogates that are bent to sabotage the effort and commitment of the Armed Forces of Nigeria towards protecting lives and properties of Nigerians.
"Casting aspersions on security agencies or their leadership in the event of slightest as well as politicizing security matters will only complicate the issues but may likely slow down the tempo of fighting this scourge. Community Policing is both a philosophical and pragmatic strategy that seeks to change management styles and day to day policing activities in such a way that it becomes both pragmatic and responsive to community needs", he said.