DAILY FILE – Fresh indications have emerged that military troops deployed to fight Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East are using outdated weapons and equipment, including failing Shilka guns procured during the administration of late Alhaji Shehu Shagari, who was the President of Nigeria between 1979 and 1983.
This development, according to top military officers who spoke to Sunday PUNCH on condition of anonymity, has exposed Nigerian troops at the battlefront to attacks by the terrorists, especially ISWAP fighters, who are said to have more sophisticated weapons. They noted that it was also responsible for the heavy casualties the country had suffered in the anti-insurgency war in recent times, noting that there were times the Shagari-era weapons failed during operations.
The top military officers explained that Shilka, an artillery gun mounted on fighting vehicles, being used by the Nigerian troops at the battlefront are outdated but that they were refurbished and deployed for the operation. They noted that such refurbished arms could not withstand the modern ones used by the insurgents and that there were times they packed up during operations.
One of the officers said, “The Shilka guns were acquired under Shagari’s government. We have many of them but they are outdated, so they were refurbished, even though a lot of their components are missing. However, they were deployed in the North-East for the anti-insurgency war like that, hence they fail during battles.
“Recently, Boko Haram even stole one from the troops. So, while we are battling with the refurbished Shilka, ISWAP fighters deploy the latest technology to attack us, and you know the President said a week ago at an ECOWAS meeting that how the terrorists deploy more sophisticated weapons is a matter of concern.”
Another officer, who is currently engaged in operations in one of the toughest operational zones in the North-East, also told Sunday PUNCH that apart from Shilka, they used to have in their inventory Tank 72, also known as T-72, which was made in Russia and manufactured in 1971 but sold out in 1972. T-72 are Soviet-era tanks.
He added, “They were procured by former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration towards the 2015 elections and they were used to capture lost territories, but unfortunately, the tanks came without spare parts.
“From time to time, we cannibalised one to fix another until they broke down and they were withdrawn from operations because there were no spare parts. What we have now is called Vickers MBT (Vickers Main Battle Tanks).
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