” No African country, except Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa has the weapons that Chad has today. In addition to what I have today, I a trying to acquire others.”
“As I speak my little brother Umar Derby, accompanied by the Chief of Staff of the air force, is in Ukraine, negotiating the aquisition of MiG-29, pilots, mechanics and ammunition”
– Chadian strongman Idris Derby. April 1 2009.
He wasn’t very far off from the truth in a regional context, if anything he grossly overestimated Nigerian air power. But given the fact he barely managed to escape with his life when NAF MiGs straffed his raiding party during the 3 Day war with Nigeria in the mid eighties, one understands his reverence to the NAF. But let’s deal with the facts.
Between 2007 and 2010 Chad received five SU-25 and SU-25UB.
With a Squadron of six SU-25 bombers, three MiG-29 fighters, and roughly a dozen Mi-24 helicopters the Chadian Air Force is second only to the Nigerian Air Force in West Africa in numbers, and i dare say second to none in firepower.
Nigeria got a taste of Chadian air power in the early morning of 31 January 2015, when Chadian jets bombed the Nigerian city of Gamboru. Located at the Cameroonian border, it had been held for several months by Boko Haram.
Gamboru is separated by a bridge barely 500 metres from the Cameroonian city of Fotokol. To stop the Nigerian army advance Boko Haram blew up the bridge. Cutting them off from Nigeria. That week Boko Haram.
Nigeria closed its border it rejected requests to allow troops from neighbouring countries the right of hot pursuit across its border.
Then Boko Haram fighters attacked a camp of Chinese workers near Waza, in northern Cameroon, taking ten of them hostage. This was the group’s biggest operation across the border so far. Its fighters methodically cut off the electricity supply to the camp, then besieged it for five hours before overwhelming its armed guards. Sure enough, the Cameroonian cavalry failed to turn up.
Unable to contain the attacks Cameroonian strongman Paul Biya called for military assistance from fellow dictator Idris Derby to help repel the attacks. That week a convoy of Chadian tanks and armored vehicles motored out of the capital Friday to help fight the Nigerian insurgent group Boko Haram.
Accusing the Nigerian army of negligence and irritated by the refusal of the Jonathan administration to authorise cross border attacks by Boko Haram, the Chadians unilaterally decided to act.
The first raid was conducted by the Chadian army at midday by two Chadian jets, presumably the rugged SU-25, which dropped bombs on the Nigerian town. This was followed up by bombings carried out by fighter jets and attack helicopters around the Gamboru area.
The air strikes was carried out to allow Chadian troops entering Gamboru. This coming after Chad had just deployed a large contingent to neighbouring Cameroon was remarkable.
Just when you think it doesn’t get any stranger than this, you are proven wrong.
The Nigeria government denied claims that Chad conducted air strikes on Nigerian soil, against jihadist sect, Boko Haram. The denial followed a statement by Chad’s military that it carried out a series of air strikes against Boko Haram bases in Nigeria in retaliation for twin suicide bombings on Tuesday in its capital, N’Djamena.
But the Nigerian military said in a statement by the Director of Defence Information, Chris Olukolade, a Major General, that the Nigerian Air force surveillance mission identified targets tagged, Camp 6, around Bosso town which is not within Nigerian territory, “and alerted the partners, accordingly”.
Mr. Olukolade said the places reported to have been struck by the Chadians were therefore most likely to be in Niger Republic and not Nigeria as widely reported in the international media.
Angered by the Nigerian governments denial and feeling unappreciated, the Chadians struck once again. This time on Malumfatori town in Nigeria’s Borno state at an axis bordering Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
According to an eye witness :
“We saw the fighter jet when it started shelling and bombarding the insurgents who were lodging mostly inside the local government secretariat and the district head’s palace,”
He said the bodies of many Boko Haram fighters were still in the town Friday morning. He said the Chadian jet pursued fleeing fighters to the border and that the bombardment was coordinated with Chadian ground troops, offering the fighters no escape.
A Nigerian military officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, confirmed the account and said the operation was solely Chadian.
Then Nigeria’s Defense Ministry spokesman, Brig. Gen. Chris Olukolade, TWEETED !! that Nigerian jet fighters participated in the offensive, but the witnesses disputed that.
This has to be a watershed moment for Nigeria as a nation. This was the day Nigeria stopped being a regional power, at least militarily.
Nigeria – No Longer a Regional Power.
Here is why.
Chad’s expeditionary force in Mali performed well in 2013 and did much of the fighting to expel the various armed Islamist groups that had seized northern Mali. Nigeria played a secondary role as rear guards, manning check points. There was no denying it, Nigeria had allowed its military to atrophy to the point the Nigerian army lack the skills to fight a shadowy, guerrilla-style war that was taking place in northern Mali.
Chad’s serious approach to military development and reform has attracted the support of the United States, which now found serious flaws in its former favourite security partner- Nigeria.
Boko Haram made its first attack on Chadian soil on February 13, using motorized canoes to set a fishing village on fire before being repulsed by Chadian soldiers in what the local Chadian governor described as a “publicity stunt”.
Responsible well managed nations take the security of their people and assets seriously, and as such do not take lightly an external act of aggression. Chads response to the murder of their citizens by an external force was eviscerating.
In a six-week campaign, Chad’s military mounted an air-supported ground offensive against Boko Haram militants that has crossed into both Chad and Cameroon. In the process, Chad has shattered Boko Haram strength in the Lake Chad border region and was willing to push further but for Abuja denial of permission to pursue the fleeing gunmen further into Nigeria.
On January 29-30, Chadian forces crossed into Nigeria for the first time, using jet fighters and ground forces to drive Boko Haram fighters from the village of Malam Fatori in Borno State after a two-day battle
On January 31, 2015, Chadian forces reported killing 120 Boko Haram fighters in a battle in northern Cameroon centered around the town of Fatakol and used two fighter jets (most likely Sukhoi Su-25 recently obtained from Ukraine) to bomb the Nigerian town of Gambaru.
On February 3, Chadian troops backed by armored vehicles took Gambaru after a fight of several hours (Independent, February 4, 2015). One Chadian battalion commander who took part in the attack on Gambaru had little praise for the Boko Haram fighters that had resisted months of Nigerian operations in the area, saying “yesterday’s offensive made us realize that the fighters of the sect, mainly composed of minors, are only cowards”
The rapid success of Chadian forces against Boko Haram fighters in the border region revealed Nigeria’s military lack of capacity to defend its territory. Just look at Malum Fatori, for example, it was held by Boko Haram since 6 months but it fell to the Chadians in one day.
Chad has succeeded by using aerial bombardments on Boko Haram targets prior to massive assaults with ground troops and armor. These tactics stand in contrast to those of the Nigerian military, which has become notorious for poor ground-air coordination and failing to press attacks, often citing inferior arms or ammunition shortages, thereby allowing Boko Haram to retreat, re-strategize, rearm and attack again.
It’s unfortunate that its 2018 yet little has changed in Nigeria’s air combat capacity. This week the Nigerian government took delivery of 10 Super Mushak jet trainers from Pakistan.