In keeping with his tradition of celebrating festive seasons with Nigerian Air Force (NAF) personnel serving on the frontlines, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, has hosted luncheons to celebrate the Yuletide season with personnel of the Air Task Force (ATF), Operation LAFIYA DOLE (OPLD) in Maiduguri and Yola as well as NAF personnel serving in Katsina under the Defence Headquarters (DHQ)-led Operation HADARIN DAJI (OPHD). The Christmas Celebration Luncheons, which held today, 25 December 2020, at the various locations, in strict compliance with COVID-19 protocols, were aimed at appreciating the troops for their efforts and sacrifices whilst also alleviating the pains of their inability to celebrate the festivities with their immediate families.
Speaking during the Luncheon in Maiduguri, which had the Borno State Governor, Professor Babagana Zulum, represented by his Deputy, Hon. Umar Kadafur, as the Special Guest of Honour, the CAS said such get-togethers help to foster comradeship while providing an avenue for the NAF to appreciate the efforts of all personnel involved in the counter insurgency operations. The CAS noted that the Christmas celebration was all about sacrifice, which NAF personnel, as military professionals, were demonstrating immeasurably to ensure the unity of Nigeria. In his words; “It is not easy to quantify your enormous contributions and sacrifices, part of which is your spending the Christmas in the theatre of operation, all in a bid to ensure peace and security in our dear Nation. As such, the NAF identifies with you all as displayed by our presence here today”, he said. He added that the NAF, being keenly aware of the enormous responsibility it bears in ensuring the indivisibility of the Country, has continued to vigorously train the requisite manpower to have capacity to operate all the sophisticated aircraft and equipment the Federal Government of Nigeria has provided for it.
Speaking further, Air Marshal Abubakar emphasized that Air Power, deployed using the platforms acquired in the last 5 years, in concert with the operations of sister Services, was instrumental in the uprooting of the Boko Haram Terrorists from their erstwhile Caliphate Headquarters in Gwoza as well as the recovery of other areas previously occupied by terrorists. Similarly, the CAS said Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) making workshops that used to be scattered all over Borno State as well as logistics and training camps had been neutralized, thus substantially degrading the Sect. He disclosed that the NAF has also continued to contribute its quota in various internal security operations across the country aimed at combating all forms of criminality. He said the Service has intensified its anti-banditry and other security operations across the country and would not relent in ensuring that the security of lives and properties of Nigerians is guaranteed. He assured that the procurement of additional platforms, such as the Super Tucano, JF-17 Thunder, and several versions of Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs) as well as other additional equipment, would undoubtedly be game changers for all NAF operations.
While commending the ATF Commander for his efforts at ensuring that personnel and units in the North-East remain undaunted and committed to the war efforts, Air Marshal Abubakar charged all personnel to continue to do the Service proud through their acts of gallantry and bravery whilst sustaining the tempo of operations with a view to ensuring that peace is restored to troubled communities in the North-East. He equally charged them not to allow themselves to be caught unawares. “I appreciate all your efforts, let us all continue to be vigilant while celebrating and ensure we maintain the highest level of combat readiness and alertness, to guarantee security during the festive period and beyond”, he added.
The CAS seized the opportunity to express the gratitude of the Service to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, for providing required resources to the NAF to enable it perform its assigned duties. “We can only show our appreciation for the President’s support by remaining a disciplined force with the highest level of professionalism in all our activities”, he added. The CAS also appreciated the National Assembly, especially the Chairmen and members of the Senate and House Committees on the Air Force, for their continued support to the Service. He equally expressed gratitude to the Government and the good people of Borno State, for their support in providing the NAF with a conducive environment for its personnel to operate. He pledged that the NAF would continue to seek greater avenues towards ensuring a peaceful and secure environment where socio-economic activities would thrive for the common good of the people.
In his welcome address, the ATF Commander, Air Commodore Abubakar Abdulkadir, used the opportunity to appreciate the CAS for his continued commitment to the welfare and well-being of personnel of the ATF OPLD, explaining that the NAF Headquarters has continued to provide all necessary facilities to ensure that personnel are effective in the discharge of their duties. “We shall continue to reciprocate the good gestures by remaining focused and highly professional in the execution of assigned tasks," he said.
A similar Christmas Luncheon was held for personnel of the ATF OPLD serving in Yola. The event took place at NAF Base Yola where the CAS was represented by the the NAF Director of Operations, Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Ayoola Jolasinmi, and had the Adamawa State Governor, Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, represented by his Chief of Staff, Professor Maxwell Gidado, as the Special Guest of Honour. In his remarks, the Governor commended the ATF OPLD for its contributions towards ensuring a secured environment for the State Government to provide much needed services to its citizens. He commended the personnel for their immense sacrifices in the fight against insurgency as well as for protecting Nigeria’s territorial integrity. He said the Adamawa State Government, on its part, would continue to provide necessary support to the NAF, sister Services and other security agencies to enable them be effective in the discharge of their duties. The event, which was put together by the Commander 153 Base Services Group Yola, Air Commodore Muhammed Yusuf, also had other Adamawa State Government officials as well as senior officers from other security agencies in the State in attendance.
At the luncheon held for personnel of the Air Component of OPHD in Katsina, the CAS, who was represented by the Air Officer Commanding Special Operations Command (AOC SOC), AVM Charles Ohwo, observed that the excellent delivery of Air Power and maintenance of high levels of efficiency in combat service delivery while away from loved ones, reflected the AC OPHD’s adherence to the NAF’s core values of excellence and placing of service before self. He said the sustained air and ground operations under OPHD had ensured that the bandits and other criminal elements have no breathing space. He noted that their capacity to carry out attacks on innocent citizens had been curtailed thereby enabling farmers to return to their farms and ensuring law-abiding citizens can carry-out their normal activities without fear.
Speaking further, the CAS noted that, in the last 5 years, the NAF has made giant strides by inducting new platforms and reactivating grounded ones while giving priority attention to the training of its personnel. He noted that some of the newly acquired platforms, such as the Mi-171E, were already being employed extensively in the Northwest Theatre with very positive effects on operational tides in the battlespace. He therefore commended the AC OPHD and all NAF units in Katsina State for their various contributions to the overall effort. He especially lauded the personnel for their role and high level of professionalism in the operation that led to the rescue of the kidnapped Kankara School boys. He also expressed appreciation to the Katsina State Governor, Rt. Honourable Aminu Bello Masari and the good people of the State for their hospitality and support to the NAF. While restating the NAF’s commitment towards maintaining the prevailing peace in the Northwest region, he charged the troops to remain committed to the strategic goal of ensuring national security and development through dedication to service, loyalty to Nation and steadfast professionalism. He equally reminded them of the need to adhere strictly to COVID-19 protocols in order curb the spread of the virus, which he said, is in its second, more sinister wave.