As you venture into Air Base 201, sited in Agadez, Niger Republic, you are struck with awe. Welcome to the largest air base built by the United States.
Cost of construction: $120 million. Why? Well, let’s find out.
Before we continue, bear in mind that it is being leased to Niger at an annual rental of $30 million for a duration of ten years. Again, the question is why?
It all started in 2016. On the 22nd December, at around 8am, the Nigerian army announced the capture of Camp Zairo, the operational stronghold of Boko Haram. The CIA had predicted it would take five years for the Nigerian military to take Sambisa. Again, their predictions about Nigeria failed.
Fast-forward to January 2017, U.S President Barack Obama invokes the National Defense Authorization Act for the fiscal year – the first time in half a century such an Act was invoked by a sitting President. Embedded in it is a $2 billion request for the construction of several drone bases in Niger, Chad and Cameroon. All countries that share land borders with Nigeria.
The US then negotiated an agreement with the government of Niger to construct MQ-9 Reaper drone bases, and all associated facilities, and infrastructure.
For three years the Obama administration fought hard resisting calls by Republican House members for the U.S government to officially recognize Boko Haram as a terrorist group. The Obama-administration resisted Nigeria’s attempt to buy helicopters from Israel, suspended the A-29 deal resists, and refused to share vital intelligence with Nigeria.
By 2024, when the 10-year lease agreement for use of the base in Agadez, Niger, ends, its construction and operating costs will top a quarter-billion dollars or around $280million, to be more precise. And this is the answer to the questions.
Now this is just Niger alone. They have drone bases in Cameroon. The U.S paid $30 million to lease the land. They offered Ghana $20 million in a similar proposition. The President agreed, but thousands of Ghanaians took to the street in protest.
‘Impact on ISWAP’
So, Nigeria has the greatest military power in human history in our backyard. Equipped with the most sophisticated attack drone in the world. Yet, for five years, ISWAP runs a quasi government in Lac Province, in Chad, which is used as a springboard to attack Nigeria.
Drones from bases in Niger fly strike missions against militants in Libya. Yet, we have ISWAP right in front of them. They refuse to go after terrorist safe havens in Lake Chad. They refuse to share valuable Intel gathered with Nigeria. In five years of operation, not a single recorded strike on Boko Haram and ISWAP as promised. It took the U.S less than 72 hours to triangulate and pinpoint the exact location the kidnapped American Philip Walton was being held in. It took 24 hours to launch a commando raid by Navy Seals at night.
In a clinical attack they kill the abductors, grab the American hostage and bug out. The entire operation took less than 10 minutes.
With this level of firepower and intelligence assets in our backyard, asking AFRICOM to relocate to Africa is pointless. That energy will be better spent lobbying the U.S to share Intel or carry out drone strikes on Boko Haram anywhere they are spotted, including in Nigeria.
Those drones and aircrafts and Special Forces personnel in our backyard will make mince meat of insurgents. It will be over in a week. It took them 10 minutes to rescue Philip Walton from Nigeria in the dead of night. It took them 15 mins to take out Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.
Does anyone really believe Boko Haram/ ISWAP stand a chance in hell if the U.S is out to get them? A B-1 bomber obliterated an entire island ISIS was using as a training camp in Iraq!
However, one has to be considerate to the Americans. I mean they have spent $2 billion to expand their footprint in West Africa. If Boko Haram/ISWAP is suddenly eradicated they will have to close up shop and leave as they will be hard pressed in justifying their continuous presence. For them, it is better that Nigerians die than lose their $2billion investment. Worse still is the possibility of China and Russia filling in their void.
So, while skepticism abounds on whether the United States would help Nigeria via drone attacks to decimate insurgency in its restive Northern regions, it is no gainsaying that hope lies in our backyard and it takes confidence to find it.Follow us on social media