Fresh indications have emerged that military troops deployed to fight
Boko Haram terrorists in the North-East are using outdated weapons and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 with
Punch on the 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battlefront are outdated but that they were refurbished and deployed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 We have many of them but they are outdated, so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, said 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 cannibalized 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broke down and they were withdrawn from operations because there were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).

“They are even older than the T-72. So, as I’m talking to you, Shilka
is what we have and the outdated guns we were supplied with and that
is why the insurgents seem to be having the upper hand. The equipment
is really outdated.”

In a similar revelation, another top military officer at the
battlefront told the newspaper that the attacks on soldiers had
increased in recent times because the insurgents were now using the
weapons and equipment they once stole from the military.

He noted that superior weapons and equipment, like Armoured Personnel
Carrier and Mine-Resistant Ambush, Protected vehicles, popularly known
as MRAP, which is both bullet- and bomb-proof, were urgently needed by
the troops.

Meanwhile, the sources explained further that beyond using drones, the
insurgents were now using night vision goggles, thermal detectors and
other modern equipment to attack the Nigerian troops.

The Nigerian Army had in November 2018 pointed out that Boko Haram’s
attacks on troops had revealed that the insurgents were using drones
and foreign fighters.

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