Published On: Wed, May 21st, 2014

Nigeria’s neglected Israeli drones won’t help find girls

Nigeria bought Israeli surveillance drones years ago that might have been used to hunt for more than 200 girls held by Islamist rebels, but poor maintenance has left them grounded, two official sources and the aircraft’s manufacturer said.

“To the best of our knowledge, these systems aren’t operational,” Tsur Dvir, marketing officer for Aeronautics Defense Systems, a firm based south of Tel Aviv that supplied Nigeria with Aerostar unmanned aerial vehicles, said on Tuesday.

A Nigerian government source and a former military attache to Nigeria both confirmed the information, although they said details were sketchy owing to the secretive nature of Israeli-Nigerian military cooperation.

The Nigerian military did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but the disclosure could further embarrass President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, which has been criticised for its slow response to the hostage crisis.

Israel last week sent intelligence and hostage-negotiation officers to Nigeria to work alongside U.S., British and French experts helping the Nigerian authorities in the search, an Israeli official said on Tuesday.

“These are not operational troops, they’re there to advise,” the Israeli official said, speaking on condition of anonymity

The April 14 abduction of the girls by Islamist militant group Boko Haram, and the inability of the military to locate them after more than five weeks, have stirred a global outcry.

Failure to maintain equipment is seen as one reason why Nigeria’s military has been unable to quell the militants. Nigeria argues counter-insurgency is something it never had to deal with until the Boko Haram uprising five years ago, and so is having to slowly learn.

Dvir, speaking on the sidelines of a conference organised by Israel Defense magazine, told Reuters that since the drones were purchased several years ago, Nigerian clients had not commissioned Aeronautics to carry out any routine maintenance.

“We did receive an inquiry from them about spare parts, but it never turned into a deal. I wish it had,” Dvir said, arguing that with their extensive flying range and thermal cameras capable of picking up body heat at night, the Aerostars could have helped scour northern Nigeria for the missing girls.

“They (drones) are probably parked in a yard somewhere.”


Dvir did not say how many Aerostars were bought by Nigeria.

Nigeria’s defense spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

The former attache said the deal was struck in 2006, with a view to deploying the drones in the oil-producing Niger Delta, where militants were attacking crude pipelines and kidnapping oil workers before an amnesty three years later. They never flew.

Last December, Nigeria also unveiled a locally made drone at an air force base in Kaduna, although it has not flown since.

A government adviser said the Israeli drones were among many procurements that quickly went obsolete owing to lack of maintenance.

Neither source, nor the company, knew how many had been bought, but an aerospace industry source said they each would have been worth between $15 million and $17 million.

The U.S. military is already flying manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft over Nigeria to look for the girls, whose seizure piled pressure on President Jonathan to deal with the rebels.

Boko Haram has killed thousands of people in its campaign to establish an Islamic state in mostly Muslim northeast Nigeria.

Israel has defence ties with a number of African countries. Last September, it sent advisers to Kenya to help in a siege at a shopping mall in Nairobi, where Islamist militants killed at least 67 people in a gun and grenade attack.

Wire Reports

Displaying 11 Comments
Have Your Say
  1.' Yagazie says:

    Now we can all see why the Chinese take the issue of corruption very seriously and execute (with a bullet to the back of the head – and getting the executed persons’s family to pay for the price of the bullet) officials found guilty of corruption.

    The UAV drones purchased from Isreal have NEVER been operational. Corrupt Nigerian and Isreali officials are all complicit in this debacle.

    I however have less problem with the behaviour of the Israelis in this sorry saga, as if the nigerian officials who brokered this deal (which was done through middle men so as to vastly inflate the price of these drones and thus create an avenue to line their pockets), had been patriotic and done their duty, there would have been no room for nonesence.

    The nigerian officials who brokered this deal should hang their heads in shame. Instead of putting the intrest of their country first, they only think of how to line their pockets – and hence we are now paying the price.

    We also had the same problem with the purchase from the United- Kingdom of the 18 Jaguar Jets for the Nigerian Airforce. After a couple of years they are now all non-operational, parked exposed to the elements at the NAF base Makurdi.

    The UAV drones which could have assisted in the search for the missing school girls are non-operational due to the actions of corrupt govt (miilitary/civilian officials. They now ALL BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS- and will account for their actions when they eventually transition from this realm and go on to meet their creator in the after-life. Sadly, it is the common man/woman amongst our populace who is mostly affected by the consequences of our corrupt govt officials.

    Until this country becomes serious about fighting corruption- stories like this will sadly continue to be common place.

  2.' greg mccray says:

    Nigerians deserve better. Nigerians must demand better.The country is now paying the price for indifference….and the costs is now to high.

  3.' ozed says:

    I think sometimes we mistake ineptitude, incompetence and ignorance for corruption. Please how in the world can poor maintenance of equipment which was duly paid for and delivered be approximated for corruption?

    If we dont identify the problem correctly, how can we ever solve it?

    •' Yagazie says:

      @Ozed- your comments would be apt if the drones had been poorly maintained – yes nigeria has a very poor maintenance culture – however the issue here is not poor maintenance- the drones WERE NEVER OPERATIONAL – the whole purchase was surrounded in secrecy and done through middle-men/rent seekers.

      At the time the Americans protested about the fact that the whole process was not open and consequently their companies were not able to put in a bid for the supply of these drones. Our govt under the presidency of OBJ purchased dud equipment – how is that not CORRUPTION??

  4.' Kanayo madu says:

    The Nigerian Air Force must get the drones out of the hanger, serviced and fitted for action. The head of the Nigerian Air Force MUST explain to the country how such assets never went into operation and if it did who were the trained personnel to operate the drones. This explains the lack of knowledge of the leaders in Nigeria military. They are not educated in modern warfare and too old to learn. The whole Nigerian armed forces need to be revamped and billions, yes billions needs to be spent to make it a modern fighting force. BH has exposed the ineptitude, incompetence, bureaucracy that controls armed forces that have no clue what modern warfare or counter-insurgency is all about.No visibly effective secret service,no security or surveillance anywhere in the country for national security monitoring. The blame is not on Jonathan, but a corrupt bureaucratic establishment of the sixties. All the courses and training is India and Pakistan is rubbish. One is left to wonder if Britain, US, France and Israel could not do a better job of training and upgrading Nigerian forces.How could insurgents be better armed than a national fighting force ????????????????????????????????????????????????????

  5.' Bongoman says:

    The Chief organiser of the dubius buying of the UAVs is now the Minister of Defense.He did it when he was national security adviser.

  6.' Kanayo Madu says:

    It is pathetic and an admission of guilt and shame that no one in the Nigerian military nor the Jonathan administration would care to either comment or shed some light on this vexing issue. Worse yet is the strange silence of the Nigerin news media to get either the president , the Air Force or the Defence Hqts. to comment. It is tax payers money..WHERE ARE THE DRONES ?????????????? asking relevant questions is not discrediting the armed forces but to seek the truth and hopefully the the armed forces reorganized and rearmed with modern equipment, sophistication and competence for modern warfare and terrorism.

  7.' Kanayo Madu says:

    The news media also needs to ask the current Defense Minister to comment on the status of the drones. Pictures of Nigerian troops riding at the back of Toyota pick-up trucks, Chasing BH insurgents is a clear evidence of an ill-equipped armed forces. They look like the terrorists they are chasing after. Saladins and personnel carriers look like vehicles from British army junk-yards. In my humble opinion the Nigerian military does not instill confidence or sense of security at home nor fear abroad. All he admirals, brigadiers and generals strike me as paper tigers. The useless course trainnings in India and Pakistan MUST be trashed as they have proven to be useless and of zero value. Concentration should be on retooling and rearming the Defense Forces and young educated commanders who can think on their feet promoted, in place of the pot-bellied generals that know not much about their profession, all waiting for fat retirement packages.

  8.' Jab Von says:

    It is true, the Chief cook of the UAVs is now the minister for defence. The man and others like are more concerned about defending their pockets than defending the country. $5 billion dollars defence budget annually in the past 3years is still no sufficient for them. Everything is
    stolen, that is why soldeirs fighting Boko Haram go to fight with empty stomachs.

  9.' Jab Van says:

    The man like money too much that is why General Buhari kicked him out of the Army. But ole like ham IBB brought him back.

  10.' Gabriel says:

    its a crying shame that not one local media outlet has asked any of the defence authorities to comment on this issue. Perhaps they are waiting for CNN to come and do thier jobs for them.

    Nigerian media, pls stand up and do your work of helping the masses hold thier government to account on utilisation of tax payers funds.

    $16-$17mln a piece for this equipments is a lot of money, which if it was coming out of anyone’s back pocket will pinch and make them scream for accountability. guess what? it is, by way of our taxes. we deserve some respect from these people! we deserve to know whats up on this issue DAMNIT!

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these html tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>