Tsur Dvir, a marketing officer for Aeronautics Defense Systems, a firm based south of Tel Aviv, Israel that supplied Nigeria with Aerostar unmanned aerial vehicles on Tuesday, revealed that the country’s drones which were bought years ago cannot be deployed to hunt Boko Haram, because they are grounded due to poor maintenance.
The marketer, who made the shocking revelation to an international media, said that the Nigeria surveillance drones could have been used to track insurgents hide out in efforts to rescue the kidnapped girls, but they aren’t factional.
“To the best of our knowledge, these systems aren’t operational” Dvir said.
Dvir, who was speaking on the sidelines of a conference organised by Israel Defense magazine further revealed that since the purchase of the drones, Nigerian clients had not commissioned Aeronautics to carry out any routine maintenance on it.
“We did receive an inquiry from them about spare parts, but it never turned into a deal. I wish it had” he said, arguing that with their extensive flying range and thermal cameras capable of picking up body heat at night, the Aerostars could have helped screen northern Nigeria for the missing girls.
Dvir, who declined to state how many the Aerostars are said: “They (drones) are probably parked in a yard somewhere”.
It was reported that Nigeria’s defence spokesperson could not be reached for comments.
It would be recalled that in December 2013, Nigeria unveiled a locally made drone at an Air Force base in Kaduna, which has not yet flown since its display.
The international media said a federal government source and a former Israeli military attaché to Nigeria both confirmed the information, although they said details were sketchy owing to the secretive nature of Israeli-Nigerian military cooperation.
According to the Nigerian government official, the Israeli drones were among many procurements that quickly went obsolete because of lack of maintenance while the former attaché confirmed that the purchase was done in 2006, with the aim of deploying the drones in the Niger Delta, where militants were attacking crude pipelines as well as kidnapping oil workers before amnesty offered three years after.
The company nor the source couldn’t ascertain how many were bought, but an aerospace industry source said that each drone worth between $15 million and $17 million.