By Chuks Oyema-Aziken
President Muhammadu Buhari has pledged that government will continue to fund and equip the military in order to address any form of insurgency in the country.
The President stated this on Thursday in Abuja, while inducting three newly acquired helicopter gunships for use by the Nigerian Airforce.
The three helicopters, which were inducted are two Agusta 109E (M) Power helicopters and Mi-17IE combat helicopter.
According to Buhari, “It is noteworthy that professionalism, capacity building and adequately equipping the Armed Forces and other security agencies are a major policy thrust of this Administration. We promise to re-professionalise and re-equip the Armed Forces and security agencies to effectively discharge their duties to our nation.
“I have no doubt that the deployment of these Agusta 109P gunships and the M-17IE helicopter would add impetus to the combat efficiency of the Air Force in combating our contemporary security challenges.
“We are committed to taking the right steps in achieving the desired results. The acquisition of these aircraft amongst other military equipment despite our budgetary constraints is an expression of our commitment.”
He admonished officers and men of the Nigerian Airforce to maintain discipline and maintenance culture, to enhance the use and lifespan of the helicopters.
“I therefore expect discipline in operation and a strong maintenance culture that will enable the nation to derive maximum benefits from this acquisition,” he said.
The Nigerian leader used the opportunity to express sincere appreciation to the governments of Italy and Russia, for whom Nigeria acquired the aircrafts, adding that Nigeria will continue to strengthen its ties with them.
“I commend the support of the Governments of Italy and the Russian Federation, in particular efforts of the Italian and Russian Ambassador to Nigeria at sustaining the strategic partnership between our countries, which facilitated this acquisition.
“We will continue to take steps that would deepen our bilateral relations. This administration has taken concrete steps to make the investment climate as friendly as possible for foreign investors and we will strive to maintain this tempo.
He said the degree of confidence of foreign investors in the country is growing and efforts are ongoing to attract more foreign investment in the non-oil sector of the economy so as to achieve the level of diversification of the economy.
President Buhari commended the military for working round the clock, to ensure that the Boko Haram terrorists are completely defeated as well as contributing immensely to peacekeeping operations in Africa and beyond.
“The Nigerian Air Force since its establishment in 1964, has been playing critical roles in national security as well as in peace-keeping operations on the African continent.
“Your contributions in internal security, peace keeping and humanitarian operations in places like The Gambia, Guinea Conakry, Mozambique
In his remarks, Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar said the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) will soon receive 17 platforms including aircraft and helicopters from the U.S, to boost its fight against insurgency and terrorism.
Abubakar said that the three helicopters would be effectively deployed in fighting against insurgency, terrorists and other forms of criminality.
The Chief of the Air Staff said that the Federal Government had so far procured and inducted 22 aircraft into the NAF’s inventory.
”Furthermore, the Service is expecting 17 additional platforms , including 12x Super Tucanos from the United States.
”In addition, the NAF through its in – Country maintenance capacity building Programme, is reactivating 3 x Aplpha jets as well as Mi – 35P helicopter gunship.
”Besides , the Service has successfully conducted the in- country periodic depot maintenance of 2x C- 130 transport aircraft with the support of President Buhari.The Service has undoubtedly come a long way from where it was in 2015.
”The resultant effect of these acquisition and reactivating of grounded aircraft has been game changing.Accordingly, the NAF has flown 36,853 hours in the fight against Boko Haram terrorists since 2015,’’ he said.
According to him, the Air Force has decimated insurgents from their previous positions of strength forcing them to abandon their Caliphate headquarters in Gwoza.
Abubakar said that terrorists were currently operating in small groups, in ungoverned spaces in the North East.
“‘Similarly, the NAF has flown 8.559 hours in the non-traditional missions of aid to Civil Authority and Civil Power, using the same platforms acquired by this administration.
” These are appreciable improvements, even as we recognise that much still needs to be done,” he said.
The Minister of Defence, Maj.- Gen Bashir Magashi, who described the induction ceremony as historic,said that President Buhari last year, during the celebration of NAF’s 55th anniversary, inducted two NAF aircraft.
“I am particularly elated because the President since assumption of office has given priority to national security.