Claim by the Presidency that Tsaigumi, a recently launched indigenously made Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, UAV, otherwise known as drone, is the first of Nigeria’s effort at building an aerial surveillance plane, has been challenged by men loyal to former President Goodluck Jonathan and insiders within the Defense Headquarters, DHQ.
The challengers, especially, an insider within the military, told armada that there were two previous successful efforts under former president President Goodluck Jonathan, even before the advent of Tsaigumi. The first being ‘Amebo’, which roughly translates to a ‘tattler’ or ‘gossip’ and the second being Gulma, launched by Jonathan.
“The drones where even used in 2015 to push back Boko Haram in the dying days of the previous administration,” explained a Defense Headquarters source.
But in delivering his speech in Kaduna on Thursday at the induction of Tsaigumi, President Mohammadu Buhari claimed that the UAV is the first indigenously built drone.
“It is a pleasure to be here for the induction of the Nigerian Air Force, ‘TSAIGUMI’, Nigeria’s first indigenously developed Unmanned Aerial Vehicle,” Buhari said at the event in Kaduna.
Further explaining the capabilities of the UAV, Buhari said that the vehicle can loiter and maintain an ‘‘unblinking stare’’ over a chosen area for hours.
“Thanks to the ability to ‘watch and wait’, its operator, often miles away, can provide a continuous stream of vital information on enemy activities and if the platform is weaponised, it patiently chooses the best moment to engage,” the president added.
But the claim has sparked controversy after loyalists of the former president and his party drew attention to earlier successful launch of operational drones beginning from 2012 and 2013, under the previous administration of PDP.
For instance, Reno Omokri, media aide to former President Jonathan, accused Buhari of appropriating the achievement of his principal. According to him, Jonathan, in 2013, launched Gulma, the first indigenously built drone, according to him.
In a similar vein, Kola Ologbondiyan, publicity secretary, Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, described Buhari’s commissioning of the UAV as a shameful act.
Ologbondiyan on his official Twitter wrote, “It’s a shame that same project former President GEJ (Jonathan) commissioned in Dec 17th 2013 is the same project (first unmanned drone) that Buhari is recommissioning.”
Amada’s finding shows that four young officers of the rank of Flight Lieutenants from Nigerian Air Force School of Engineers, Aircraft Design Centre, Kaduna, as early as 2012, began conceptualizing and building drones.
With collaborations with Cranfield University of United Kingdom and with funds from the Federal Government, UAVs were built according to the pressing need of the country. According to the officers, the vehicle can be used in pipeline monitoring, border patrol, mapping and disaster monitoring.
Other areas of use include maritime patrol, aerial surveillance and pest monitoring. The vehicle, after completion, could fly at 3000 feet, and remain airborne for four hours using petrol as at the time. The first one built was named Amebo 1. The second was Amebo 2, which is an improvement over the first.
However, on 18, December 2013, Jonathan launched a full operational drone called Gulma.