The Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Air Force, Honourable Shehu Koko, has commended the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, for the laudable achievements recorded by the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) in the last 5 years. The Chairman and other members of the Committee also commended the CAS for his astute leadership, prudent management of resources and forthrightness in repositioning the NAF into a highly professional and disciplined force to be reckoned with in Africa. Honourable Koko made the commendation today, 3 November 2020, while leading other Honourable members of the House Committee on Air Force to Headquarters NAF, Abuja on oversight visit.
While expressing his gratitude to the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Muhammadu Buhari, for his unending support to the Armed Forces of Nigeria towards the achievement of their statutory mandates, the Chairman disclosed that the Committee had visited NAF Commands and units in Kaduna, Maiduguri, Bauchi, Gombe, Kainji and Makurdi, and was delighted to see that the NAF has done and is still doing extremely well under the leadership of the CAS. Honourable Shehu noted that Mr President had done so much for the NAF, and the Committee was elated to see that the CAS had judiciously used the little available resources to achieve so much. He however disclosed that, the Committee was yet to visit some other locations like Lagos and Port Harcourt, but believed that similar achievements would have been recorded in these and other NAF units.
The Chairman assured the NAF that the Committee would do everything within its power to address some of the teething challenges confronting the Service with regard to operational effectiveness. He said he, along with his Committee members, rated the CAS as the best CAS the NAF has ever had. According to him, “the entire National Assembly recognizes the CAS as the best CAS ever produced in Nigeria.” He commended the Branch Chiefs, Directors, officers, airmen and airwomen for giving the CAS the necessary support towards achieving his vision for the NAF. The Chairman, on behalf of the Honourable Speaker, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, and the entire National Assembly, promised to continue to support the NAF in achieving its air power goals.
In his remarks, the CAS stated that all the achievements recorded by the NAF would not have been possible, without the support of the Committee and indeed the entire National Assembly. He thanked the Committee for taking out time to tour the NAF Units on oversight visit. He disclosed how the young pilots in Maiduguri, were extremely excited to have the members of the National Assembly in Maiduguri to see first-hand what they were doing. He however hoped that, from time to time, the Committee would be available to interact more with the young pilots. This, he said, would go a long way to boost their morale.
Air Marshal Abubakar commended the efforts of the Committee in making Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) a degree awarding institution. "We have been fighting to get the AFIT Bill passed for many years but this Assembly made it possible, and we have the AFIT in Kaduna that is not only training the NAF Personnel but training and supporting the Aviation Sector in Nigeria. Most of the students there are civilians and they are studying courses in Aerospace Engineering and Aeronautical Engineering, I want to thank you most sincerely also for supporting the NAF in that regards. I also want to appeal, on behalf of the AFIT Commandant, for your support in dealing with the issue of funding for the Institute”, he added.
While acknowledging all the observations raised by the Honourable members during the interactive session, the CAS stated that on gender sensitivity, 7 female pilots are currently flying in the NAF, and there are also 14 other female pilots currently undergoing training within and outside the country. One of the female officers, he said, is training in Czech Republic to become a fighter and instructor pilot. Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar equally highlighted that, for the first time in the history of the NAF, the Service has a female Directing Staff in Ghana Armed Forces Command and Staff College, teaching other officers who are undergoing courses in Ghana. He also revealed that, for the first time in the history of the NAF, the Service has a female officer who is a Deputy Defence Attaché attached to Nigerian Embassy in Angola. He also disclosed that there are other young female personnel as Admin Clerks that have been selected and would be deployed to the Defence Sections of various Nigerian Embassies around the World.
In bringing the Committee up to speed with the achievements of the NAF, the CAS disclosed that, on flooding and natural disasters, the leadership of the NAF was working, through its Special Operations Command, to see how it can support communities that are ravaged by flooding and natural disasters. "On Capacity building, I want to thank you most sincerely for your very kind words on what we are doing in terms of capacity building. We have actually reactivated 20 erstwhile unserviceable aircraft, we are now working on 2 in Kainji, which you saw during your visit. We have 16 Chinese personnel that are in Makurdi, working to reactivate 2 F-7Ni aircraft there. We are also expecting 18 personnel from Czech Republic today to work with our personnel in the reactivation of L-39ZA. We believe that the whole idea is for us to build capacity to enable us carry out these maintenance activities entirely on our own in no distant time’’, the CAS remarked.
On Research and Development, the CAS disclosed that, the NAF currently has partnerships with 15 Nigerian Universities, with cells made up of NAF personnel and resource persons from the Universities, to look at specific maintenance challenges that are facing the NAF. While noting that a credible Air Force that can readily respond to the Nation’s security imperatives is essential for Nigeria to remain secured and peaceful, Air Marshal Abubakar stated that the major problem of the NAF is funding, highlighting that a huge financial outlay is required for fuelling and maintenance of aircraft for operations.
The CAS expressed his gratitude to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, the entire National Assembly members and the House Committee on Air Force, and for their continued support to the NAF which had enabled the induction of 22 brand new aircraft into the Service in the last 5 years. According to him, “the last time the NAF had this huge number of aircraft inducted into the Service, was in the 1980s. We are also expecting 17 more aircraft, including 12 Super Tucano. Six of these aircraft have so far been produced and some of our pilots and technicians are currently undergoing training in the USA so as to effectively man the aircraft, which are expected to arrive in Nigeria by the second quarter of 2021”.
According to him, “If you look at Nigeria, where we have conflicts; the Northeast, the North central the Northwest, we are talking about an area of about 705,000 square kilometers. How do you keep an eye on every inch of that land to ensure that insecurity will not thrive, and some of these areas are not accessible to our ground troops. The only way of covering that huge space, including forests, is to have adequate number of serviceable aircraft to give the desired result. That is why we are concentrating on capacity building. We have trained quite a large number of pilots and are expecting some that are currently undergoing training outside the Country. We have also enhanced our capacity to train our pilots in Kaduna. Before 2015, we had only 3 trainer aircraft. Now, we have 15 that conduct training which has made our training faster and easier”, the CAS said.
Speaking on the efforts of the NAF in the area of Force Protection, the CAS stated that deliberate steps had been taken to build the capacity of Regiment and Special Forces (SF) personnel. “In the past, we had inadequate number of Regiment and SF personnel. Whenever there were Internal Security (IS) challenges in Nigeria and the NAF was tasked to support other security agencies, we had to deploy technicians and others for such assignments. What we have simply done is to scale up the training for the SF elements and deploy them for IS instead of the technicians who are now allowed to carry on with their aircraft maintenance activities. This has impacted positively on our serviceability status. In 2015, the NAF's serviceability status ranged between 33 and 35% and today we have a status within the range of 83 - 84% because our technicians are no longer involved in IS duties. We have our SF elements in strategic places around the Country and they are deployed for IS, whenever we are called upon”, Air Marshal Abubakar stated.