From Molly Kilete, Abuja
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has commenced the airlift of COVID-19 medical relief materials donated by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to 14 member-states in response to the spread of the second wave of the pandemic.
The medical relief materials were donated with the support of donor partners like Team Europe, the German government, United Nations Development Programme and Deutsche Gesellschaft Fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).
NAF Director, Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet, who made it known in a statement on Wednesday, said the airlift commenced Tuesday at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, with the leader of the ECOWAS delegation and Vice President of ECOWAS Commission, Ms Finda Koroma, in attendance.
Ms Koroma, at the occasion, stated that the need for essential medical supplies became necessary to enable ECOWAS countries to cope with increasing cases of infection, as the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to increase especially in West Africa.
Ms Koroma further noted with thanks the willingness of NAF to always be on hand to provide airlift support whenever called upon.
She specifically thanked the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Oladayo Amao, for the express approval given for the NAF C-130 aircraft to undertake the mission of distributing the items to ECOWAS countries in dire need.
In his remarks at the flag-off of the airlift, Air Marshal Amao, who was represented by the Director of Operations, Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Ayoola Jolasinmi, stated that the NAF considered the airlifting of the items a great privilege and worthy contribution to a noble cause.
While assuring the ECOWAS Commission of NAF’s commitment towards the success of the operation, he reiterated NAF’s readiness to always fulfill its constitutional role of ‘Military Assistance to Civil Authority’ whenever called upon.
The about 4,000 kg of relief materials, which include laboratory diagnostic kits, Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), intensive care equipment as well as miscellaneous medical accessories, will be airlifted by a seven-man C-130 aircraft crew.
The NAF has a history of providing aid in the form of airlifts to civil authorities.
In March 2020, it airlifted medical materials donated by the Jack Ma Foundation, consisting of 107 boxes of medical supplies and equipment weighing over 1,360 kg.
Similarly, in April 2020, the NAF airlifted medical equipment and supplies donated by the Turkish government from Lagos to Abuja.
The medical items, weighing about 4,000 kg, were airlifted by a NAF C-130 Hercules aircraft to the Central Storage Facility in Abuja on behalf of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
The same period also witnessed the NAF airlifting a team of stranded Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) health officials from Congo, Brazzaville, where they had travelled for a World Health Organisation training programme on the management of COVID-19.
These efforts were beside the numerous in-country flights organised for officials of the Federal Ministry of Health, the NCDC and other officials for ease of movement in the conduct of their responsibilities.