The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has successfully graduated a fresh batch of 2,079 recruits to boost its capacity to effectively tackle various internal security challenges in the country. The colourful Passing Out Parade (POP) of the Basic Military Training Course (BMTC) 40/2019 took place today, 15 February 2020, at the Military Training Centre (MTC), Kaduna, with the recruits having undergone 6 months of rigorous military training. With today’s graduation ceremony, the NAF has substantially bridged the wide gap in manpower disposition to meet the imperatives of its constitutional role of defending the territorial integrity of the Country. Speaking during the POP, the Guest of Honour/Reviewing Officer, the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, stated that the graduation lent credence to the efforts of the current NAF leadership to reposition the Service into a highly professional force that is appropriately manned and adequately trained to ensure that Nigeria’s territorial integrity and national sovereignty are not undermined or subverted by any individual or group of individuals.

While reminding the new airmen and airwomen of the enormous tasks ahead of them as they are joining the military at a time when the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) is involved in several Internal Security (IS) operations, the CAS charged them to operate within the Rules of Engagement as enumerated in the Code of Conduct for the AFN personnel. “You must also respect and protect the innocent and law-abiding civilians whom you are paid to defend”, he added. Air Marshal Abubakar noted that the training which the new airmen went through was rigorous and deliberately designed to expose them to near real-life scenarios of what the Nation expects from them when deployed for operations. He further charged them to be resilient, tough and courageous in the performance of their duties at all times. According to him, “You must embrace the core values of 'Integrity' 'Service before Self' and 'Excellence in all you do' as essential ingredients of the high reputation, which the NAF has earned over the years. You must be innovative and take advantage of the opportunities that will be provided for you through specialization training and re-training to become proficient in your chosen specialties”, the CAS emphasized.

Speaking further, Air Marshal Abubakar said the NAF, on its part, would continue to ensure their welfare by improving and providing relevant facilities within the bounds of available resources. He reiterated that, as personnel of the NAF, the new airmen/airwomen must subject themselves to both military and civil laws in accordance with democratic tenets. He challenged them to be vigilant and guard their utterances and conduct at all times while they must not allow themselves to be used by any subversive element in the society to compromise national security. “You are to project the good image of the NAF and resist the temptation to harass or engage in physical contacts against any member of the civil populace. Always remember that our duty as professionals is to protect all Nigerians irrespective of their ethnic, religious or political affiliations. Also, you must remain apolitical and not succumb to any inducement or actions that would cause disaffection amongst fellow members of the Armed Forces”, he stated.

The CAS further remarked that, in the last 4 and half years, the Federal Government had facilitated an unprecedented increase in the number of aircraft available for NAF operations bringing the aircraft serviceability rate of the Service from 35 per cent in July 2015 to 82 per cent as at February 2020. The noteworthy achievement, he said, was brought about by intensive training and retraining of aircraft maintenance engineers and technicians who subsequently played a crucial role in the reactivation of platforms and maintenance of equipment. “You would recall that 22 platforms were inducted into the NAF since 2015. These platforms have since been launched into operations”, he said. The CAS further disclosed that the NAF was in the process of acquiring the JF-17 Thunder aircraft and the Super Tucano (A-29) light attack aircraft. According to him, the JF-17 was due to arrive Nigeria in November 2020, while the A-29 Super Tucano aircraft were expected to be inducted into Service by Year 2022. This, he said, would further boost operational capabilities of the NAF by bridging the hitherto wide gap in platform disposition of the Service. This unprecedented achievement, the CAS noted, needs to be sustained for the next 10 years if the NAF is to be adequately positioned to defend the territorial integrity of the Nation. Highlighting other bold steps taken by the current NAF leadership, the CAS noted that the Special Operations Command was established to address the challenges of asymmetric warfare, such as the one posed by the Boko Haram Terrorists, while the NAF Regiment Specialty had been considerably expanded with majority of its personnel trained in Force Protection in Complex Air and Ground Environment (FPCAGE) for the enhanced protection of NAF Bases and critical national assets.

The CAS, while appreciating the Federal Government for the priority attention given to the needs of the Service to enable it record these laudable achievements, assured the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, of the NAF’s unalloyed loyalty and total dedication to his administration’s commitment to a peaceful and prosperous Nigeria. He said the Service would continue to make deliberate efforts to increase its infrastructure which include the upgrading and provision of additional housing, schools, hospitals, operational and recreational facilities. These efforts, he said, had led to the provision of accommodation to over 6,500 families, thus enhancing the welfare of personnel which has in turn reflected on the quality of their outputs. Air Marshal Abubakar also acknowledged the support of the Red and Green Chambers of the National Assembly, especially the Chairmen and Members of the Senate and House Committees on the NAF. He equally thanked the Kaduna State Government and other military and para-military agencies in Kaduna for their usual support, while commending the efforts of the Air Officer Commanding Ground Training Command (AOC GTC), Air Vice Marshal Idi Amin, and the Commandant MTC, Air Commodore Abdullahi Bello, as well as their staff for providing the right leadership that ensured the successful training of the young airmen and airwomen.

One of the highlights of the event was a silent drill demonstration, which was executed with precision, by the passing out recruits to the delight of invited guests. The ceremony also featured the presentation of awards to the 3 best graduating recruits. The award recipients were Aircraftman Muhammed Abdulmutalib, Aircraftwoman Abisola Alade and Aircraftman Uwem Essien, who won the CAS, AOC GTC and Commandant’s Awards, respectively, for emerging First, Second and Third in Order of Merit.

The ceremony witnessed a large turnout of dignitaries including the representative of the Executive Governor of Kaduna State, Commissioner for Internal Security, Mr Samuel Aruwan; the Chairman Senate Committee on Air Force, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah; Representative of the Chairman House Committee on Air Force, Honourable Tyough Aondona; the Deputy Chairman House Committee on Defence, Honourable Makki Yalleman; the Chief of Defence Intelligence; representative of the Emir of Zaria; serving and retired senior officers as well as families and friends of the newly enlisted airmen and airwomen.

After the POP, the CAS and other dignitaries also commissioned 3 newly constructed and furnished blocks of 10 x one bedroom Airmen Instructors’ Transit Accommodation at the Regiment Training Centre (RTC), which were named after 3 NAF personnel who had paid the supreme price in the line of duty. The personnel immortalized are; Aircraftmen Augustine Atti, Mustapha Ibrahim and Christian Nkwuo of the NAF Regiment/Special Forces Specialty.

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