The Executive Governor of the State of Osun, Adegboyega Oyetola, has commended the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) for continually evolving ideas to effectively tackle the menace of insurgency and other forms of criminality in the country. The Governor made the commendation today, 5 December 2019, during the NAF Counter Terrorism (CT) Simulation Exercise, nicknamed “BUJE EKUN”, held along the Akure-Oshogbo Expressway, Ipetu-Ijesha in Osun State. The Simulation Exercise, which is a follow-on to the series of CT exercises earlier conducted in Kaduna, Kano and Minna, was organized to demonstrate the combat readiness and effectiveness of the NAF in tackling security challenges in the country.

Represented by the Deputy Governor of the State, Mr Benedict Alabi, the Governor said he was delighted that the NAF, along with other security agencies, had continued to build capacity to ensure the security of Nigeria and Nigerians. He said this was in line with one of the key objectives of his Government aimed at ensuring that all residents conduct their legitimate activities without fear of molestation by miscreants or bandits. “We believe that security is paramount and that no nation can progress or prosper without emplacing measures to ensure adequate security of lives and properties of its inhabitants. The current leadership of the NAF has demonstrated the resolve to ensure that its officers and men are capable in performing their duties”, he said.

The Governor further stated that the NAF had blazed the trail by developing and expanding the functions of its Special Forces (SF) and further building their capacity through exercises that evolve lessons, tactics and doctrines in the conduct of CT Operations. He said the timing of the Exercise was auspicious as it afforded the NAF the opportunity to assess the efficacy of its capacity development efforts while building on the physical fitness and combat readiness of its personnel. According to him, it would also deter criminal elements from destabilizing the State. “I am equally glad that my administration’s task of protecting the lives and properties of the good people of the State of Osun is receiving the drive with the conduct of this operational exercise”. Governor Oyetola therefore congratulated the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, for his pragmatic leadership style that led to the conceptualization of the CT Exercise.

Expressing his views at the end of the exercise, the representative of the Governor said he was very impressed with the superb demonstration of mastery and bravery that showed that what was planned in the office could be effectively executed in the field, complete with the implementation of contingency plans for logistics re-supply and casualty evacuation. “I am extremely impressed with this commendable demonstration of effective planning and execution. It shows that the NAF is on top of its game and this will have positive impact on the security of the State of Osun”, he said.

Speaking earlier, the CAS stated that the essence of the various operational exercises was to ensure that NAF personnel maintain a high level of combat readiness to meet the demands of the nation’s current security challenges. Air Marshal Abubakar noted that air power, being an essential instrument of national power, is a major requirement in the preservation of the nation’s territorial integrity. “In an increasingly dynamic security environment with attendant challenges”, the CAS said, “it is very important to continuously develop human capacity of a fighting force”. “It must be stated that even with today’s modern weapon systems, it is the personnel with competence that will make the difference in any future conflict. This philosophy has been incorporated into our training policies to ensure every personnel attains a level of combat readiness to allow productivity in various duties and assignments,” he added.

The CAS said acts of terrorism in the North-East as well as armed banditry and kidnappings in other parts of the Nation, with their attendant severe consequences on its human and material resources, require the evolution of new strategies to effectively and efficiently deal with them. He said the various CT exercises being conducted were part of the new strategies being adopted and were in tandem with the desire to reposition the NAF into a highly professional and disciplined force through capacity building initiatives for effective, efficient and timely employment of air power in response to Nigeria’s national security imperatives.

Air Marshal Abubakar said that, in furtherance of this desire, the NAF had considered it imperative to have the right Service structure for enhanced professionalism. This, according to him, led to the establishment of the Special Operations Command (SOC) as well as the creation of quick response units aimed at addressing the challenges of asymmetric warfare, such as the one posed by terrorism and other forms of criminality. He explained that the NAF equally expanded the NAF Regiment Specialty with many of the personnel trained for Force Protection in Complex Air-Ground Environment (FPCAGE) whilst also beefing-up the strength and capacity of its SF personnel to 1,000 over the last 4 years. He said the capacity development efforts had yielded positive results by equipping personnel with the skills required to adequately protect NAF Bases and critical national assets against attacks.

Speaking further, the CAS disclosed that, in order to sustain the tempo, similar CT exercises would also be held in the South East and South South Geopolitical Zones of the Country. Moreover, he noted that the facilities at the 209 Quick Response Group (209 QRG) Ipetu-Ijesha would be upgraded to accommodate more personnel as well as conduct training for Regiment and SF since the unit had been designated as an Annex of the Regiment Training Centre (RTC) Kaduna; similar to what had been done in Bauchi and would soon be done in Owerri. He assured the good people of the State of Osun and Nigerians in general of the NAF’s unflinching commitment to the successful execution of its constitutional roles, whether acting singly or in unison with surface forces and other security agencies. He also appreciated the Executive Governor of the State as well as the good people of Ipetu-Ijesha for their continued support to the NAF.

In his welcome address, the Air Officer Commanding Special Operations Command (AOC SOC), Air Vice Marshal James Gwani, said Exercise BUJE EKUN was a continuation of the series of operational level exercises designed to further develop NAF tactics and doctrine for the effective conduct of CT operations as well as enhancing synergy between various security agencies and other stakeholders. He said the exercise was unique in the sense that it was the first of such exercises conducted from a purely civil airfield, the Akure Airport, that is far removed from the nearest NAF Base or facility. He remarked that this afforded the NAF the opportunity to practice the deployment of air assets, logistics and other support services to a bare base to support no fewer than 10 aircraft, with appropriate force protection elements to secure not only the airfield but also the NAF assets for the seamless conduct of air operations. He noted that BUJE EKUN was also the first exercise, where a coordinating conference was held with various security agencies, traditional institutions and civil society organizations being fully represented, which, he said, was in line with one of the key drivers of the Vision of the CAS, which emphasizes comradeship, regimentation and inter-Service cooperation. Furthermore, he highlighted that Exercise BUJE EKUN was the first exercise that was preceded by a Medical Outreach to a local community in the exercise area in order to further enhance civil-military relations.

Highlights of the CT Exercise included the operational briefing and giving of orders by the Commander 209 QRG Ipetu-Ijesha, Group Captain Daniel Komo, which was held behind closed doors. This was followed by execution of the operational plan which featured the engagement of an enemy location by NAF fixed and rotary wing attack aircraft; insertion, by fast-roping, of NAF SF elements and movement of teams into the objective area as well as logistics re-supply of ammunition to the assaulting forces by tactical air drop from a helicopter and subsequent arrest of the suspected armed bandits; extraction of the assault team and evacuation of a casualty by air, using the Super Puma Helicopter.

Among the other dignitaries that graced the occasion were the representative of the Ondo State Governor, the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Honourable Ifedayo Abegunde, members of the Osun State House of Assembly, the Osun State SSG and members of the State Executive Council, as well as former CAS and Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin, among many other serving and retired senior military officers.

While in Ipetu-Ijesha, the CAS and other senior NAF officers paid a courtesy call on His Royal Majesty, (Dr) Oba Samson Adeleke Agunbiade Oke, Agunbiade III, Ajalaye of Ipetu-Ijesha, who received that CAS in his palace along with members of his Council of Chiefs.

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