By Malachy Uzendu
On 3rd December, last year, President, Muhammadu Buhari, commissioned the first locally-made Mine Resistance Ambush Protection Vehicle, nicknamed Ezeugwu-MRAP. The rugged all-purpose war machine were rolled in to provide needed support to the Military war arsenal inventory for counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations against Boko Haram terrorists, the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), and the variants of bandits operating mainly in northern parts of Nigeria.
For over a decade, terrorists, bandits and blood-sucking murderers masquerading as herdsmen, have wrecked havoc in parts of the country, destroying lives, property and extinguishing social and religious life of the people. At the last count, no fewer than 200,000 persons have been killed, while millions of others were rendered homeless by these blood-sucking criminals.
Efforts put in place to contain the attrocities of these dare devil sons of darkness, akin to Jack the Reaper in the US, seem not to be having needed effect. For instance, for more than a decade, billions of Naira had been spent procuring arms and ammunitions to wedge war against these marauders, but no sooner had territories been recovered from them, were such successes reversed. Territories hitherto occupied by Boko Haram, especially in the North-East, remained a backward and forth affair, as the gains from such Military operations had been messed up by renewed onslaught by those terrorist elements, thereby putting to question Nigeria Military adventures in the war against terrorism.
But determined to make an invaluable contribution to seeing to the end of such mindless terror and banditry against innocent citizens, Maj.-General Victor Okwudili Ezugwu, a former General Officer Commanding, 7 Division of the Nigerian Army, Maiduguri, who had seen it all, from the bush trenches in Mubi, Gombi, Michika, until he cleared Boko Haram elements in all the Local Government Areas hitherto occupied by the terrorists in Adamawa state, up to the time he took charge at the 7 Division and successfully retrieved the over 15 LGA earlier occupied by the terrorists in Borno and Yobe states, he had always believed that the fight against Boko Haram cannot remain intractable.
No wonder when General Ezugwu took charge at the hitherto moribund Defence Industries Corporation (DIC) in Kaduna, he vowed to make a modest contribution that would remain indelible when the stories of the war against terror in the country is told several years ahead. Aside turning around the fortunes of the Corporation which was considered “one of those Nigerian mistakes”, Gen. Ezeugwu not only brought back the agency to positive reckoning, but with the design and fabrication of the Ezugwu-MRAP, which have joined the Infantry Patrol Vehicles in the war, greater positive reports are now obtained and successes no longer reversed as had been the case.
President Buhari, at the inauguration of the Ezugwu-MRAP, stated that the Ambush and Mine Resistant Vehicle is a 4 x 4 designed to carry out extraction of troops, assault and counter-terrorism operations, especially in the dangerous and terrible North-East terrain.
An Infantry Officer who did not want to be named said: “Since it’s unveiling, Ezeugwu-MRAP have been tested and proved to be ‘the game changer’ in the fight against insurgency in the country. The vehicle is inbuilt with features and capacity to ward off terrorists. The Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON), and Command Engineering Depot (CED) under his command, have continued to work hard to improve the vehicle.
“The improved Ezeugwu-MRAP has been tested in the North-East with optimal results and the feedback of its exploits form the theatre of operations led to the production of five additional units of the MRAP bringing it’s total in the operation to 10 units,” the officer said.
According to the Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai, “MRAP has a maximum output of 375 horsepower, turbo charged diesel engine, with the maximum Turk of 1650 Newton meters and it’s primary and secondary armament are 12.7 anti- aircraft gun and 7.62mm LMG GPMG. It is designed to resist mine blast of up to 12 kilograms TMT and can protect the troops inside the vehicle”.
There is no doubt that Ezeugwu-MRAP is versatile in counter-insurgency. It is one sure vehicle that have posed threat to the adversaries, inckuding terrorists, bandits and kidnapoers. It has been acknowledged by the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. ogbonnaya Onu, at the Technology and Innovation Expo 2020, and by the Kaduna Chamber of Commerce Industry, Mines and Agriculture (KACCIMA) during its 41st Kaduna International Trade Fair to be the game changer in addressing security challenges confronting the nation.
What needs to be done to further strengthen the capabilities of the Ezugwu-MRAP operational vehicles now deployed to counter-insurgency operations, is real-time online CCTV camera, which can immediately take video and transmit to the Theatre Command and Control Centers. If this done, it will take no time for immediate response by the Air Tactical Command to deploy necessary air support and halt reported ambush attack against the Military in the various theatre operations. This is quick fix that can help fix the lapses that have made the Nort-East Counter Insurgency Operations seem an intractable operation, that appear to have remained an endless war. If officers handling strategic operations replicate the practical determination exhibited by Maj-Gen Ezugwu, the war against insurgency and banditry will become history and far removed from the backward and forth operation it has vexome with attendant human and material loses.