In the last 10 years, insecurity has posed a grave threat to Nigeria’s political, socio-economic and religious existence.
Many lives have been lost, and varied degrees of injuries sustained by victims of Boko Haram, while many communities have been razed. The North-East has been the worst hit since insurgency started in Nigeria, even as many residents have been forced to deny their faith. Young and underage ladies have been married off against their wish.
The present government and its predecessors have fought tooth and nail to stamp out insecurity from the North and other parts of the country, but the insurgents continue to fight back and the crisis continues unabated. Similarly, in many parts of the country, people find it difficult to sleep with both eyes closed for fear of attacks by the enemies of the state.
The Federal Government, at a point, said that the Boko Haram had been technically defeated. But from the reality on ground, many pundits believe that a lot of work still needs to be done for peace to return to the volatile region. Those following the trend have said that it was not yet time to begin to sing songs of triumph.
Many people have also commended the efforts and gallantry of the military in confronting the insurgents and other criminals. While defending Nigerians, many of the security personnel have been maimed and killed at the battlefront.
Chief of Air Staff Sadique Abubakar has said that since the fight against insurgency, banditry and other violent crimes in the northeastern part of Nigeria began, Nigeria’s security agencies, especially the Air Force, have not rested on their oars in ensuring peace and normalcy in the affected parts of the country.
No doubt, the military, being on the frontlines of the battle against insurgency, has consequently come under increased scrutiny and criticisms by members of the public. Many citizens have queried and doubted if the diverse strategies adopted by the military in tackling and prosecuting the battle against insurgency and banditry were achieving the desired result.
But he countered that the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) remains committed to winning the war against the insurgents.
He explained that: “Deployment of air asset gives better control of the ground war. The enemy cannot move freely nor hide effectively. With air asset, the enemy’s supply lines can be effectively crippled and their communication network disrupted. Command of the air space around enemy territory makes ground operations and mop-up operations easy.”
Many have applauded the exploits of the air force in recent times in the battle against insurgency, banditry and general insecurity in the land, attributing it to the effective coordination and tactical and managerial prowess of the Chief of Air Staff.
Security experts have observed that Abubakar’s ability to handle the challenges faced by his men on all fronts and also synergise with other security agencies to ensure safety and security of Nigeria and Nigerians is self-evident in the measures the NAF has put in place to boost operational readiness, human capacity development and staff welfare.
In the area of operational readiness and in furtherance of the strategic thrusts of President Muhammadu Buhari, Abubakar said that the NAF has established 13 new units across the country in the past four and a half years, through which huge successes have been recorded in the fight against different violent crimes in recent times.
The new units, according to the Air Force Chief, include the Quick Response Groups (QRGs) and Quick Response Wings (QRWs) detachments at Ipetu Ijesha in Osun State; Gusau in Zamfara State, Owerri in Imo State; Daura and Katsina in Katsina State; Gembu in Taraba State; Agatu in Benue State; as well as a Combat Search and Rescue Group in Kerang, Plateau State.
The air force helmsman said: “These units, which are spread across the six geopolitical zones of the country, are designed to enhance the operational effectiveness of the Air Force by ensuring quick response to distress situation.”
Apart from the establishment of new units, he revealed that the NAF, in line with the federal government’s commitment to the security of the nation, has also acquired 22 brand new aircraft in the last four and half years with another 16 due for delivery soon.
Said he: “The additional air assets include an Mi-17 helicopter, which is expected to arrive the country this month, as well as three JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighter aircraft and 12 Super Tucano attack aircraft that are expected to be delivered in November this year and early 2022, respectively.”
These new acquisitions, Abubakar said, are designed to add “significant impetus to the fight against insurgency.”
He believes that the acquisition of more air assets was necessary to ensure victory in the war against insurgency, which has been a major policy direction of his leadership.
“The support of the Federal Government has enabled the service to acquire 22 brand new platforms as well as reactivate 20 erstwhile unserviceable aircraft, while another 16 aircraft have been ordered and awaiting delivery.
“These newly acquired and reactivated platforms have added significant impetus to the fight against insurgents and other forms of criminality in the country,” he stated.
He stated that the refurbishment of several abandoned assets has also been prioritised by the force. He informed that the NAF has recently refurbished a C130 aircraft in-house to aid troop deployment. He revealed that this moved has saved the Federal Government huge foreign exchange expenditure.
At the commissioning of the resuscitated aircraft, Abubakar declared that the C130 fleet “is very critical in what we are doing all over the country. It will be deployed to move the troops, equipment as well as arms and ammunition.
“It is noteworthy that this would be the second time that the air force is able to handle major maintenance with the Periodic Depot Maintenance (PDM) under the current Chief of Air Staff.”
To boost the personnel’s morale, he said that the NAF was building the required human capacity for such in-house maintenance without the need for external help.
In his words, the modest accomplishments so far have greatly enhanced the serviceability of the country’s aircraft fleets and boosted NAF’s capability to project air power within and beyond the shores of Nigeria.
He also noted that other aircraft types are also undergoing in-house refurbishment. Even as he assured Nigerians that there was a strong synergy with other security agencies and other stakeholders in winning the war.
At the commissioning, Abubakar said: “It is worthy to mention that apart from this C-130H being commissioned today, we are equally undertaking the local reactivation of Three Alpha Jets and one Mi-35P helicopter.
“This is good news, and it indicates the preparedness of the leadership of the Air Force to look inward in boosting the operational capability of the nation’s air assets in the discharge of its core responsibility of providing air support in conflict situations.
“The operational capability of the NAF is on a steady rise. Boko Haram and elements of ISWAP have been brought to their knees, especially in the northeast. News updates from the Theatre Command of Operation Lafia Dole, the operational code name for the military operation in the northeast, shows that the air component has been carrying out relentless bombardment of insurgents’ hideout and giving the leeway for ground troops to carryout mop up operations.
“Also in a recent operation, in the northwest, the Air Force in collaboration with the Nigerian Police, successfully deployed its air assets to smoke out armed bandits from their camps at Walawa, Yadi and Kuduru Hills areas of Kaduna State, neutralizing several of them and destroying some of their logistics supplies in the process.”
In all, he said that no fewer than five commanders of Ansaru and a dozen armed bandits were neutralized in the operation.
“The frequent strikes have significantly reduced the ability of Boko Haram and other elements to carry out attacks in the Northeast and North-Western parts of the country,” he said.
He maintains that maximizing airmen and women’s potential and expanding their abilities would enable them to contribute to the overall effectiveness of the force.
His words: “A huge number of airmen and airwomen have been trained in different categories of air and ground operations, both locally and internationally. This is to develop competencies and skills of personnel to ensure combat readiness for the effective execution of our constitutional roles
“Apart from operational preparedness and air asset acquisition, staff welfare has also been a dominant concern for us. We have continued to push for staff welfare specifically in the provision of new accommodation and refurbishment of existing ones. This is done to ensure that airmen and women live in a conducive environment to be able to carry out their constitutional responsibilities.
“Over the past four and a half years, the NAF has ensured steady improvements in infrastructural development and personnel welfare. This is despite the fact that the strength of the service has almost doubled within the same time frame.
“The provision of decent housing for officers is a major priority of the Air Force under my leadership. The policy thrust is to ensure that Air Force personnel and their families live in a befitting accommodation and operate in a befitting work environment.
“Projects are being built and commissioned in all NAF bases across the country to provide accommodations and a conducive atmosphere for personnel in order to effortlessly carry out their duties.”
He expressed optimism that, with continuous dedication and healthy collaboration with other security agencies, the fight against insurgency, terrorism, banditry and other violent crimes in the country would soon be a thing of the past.
Abubakar called on all Nigerians to support all military and security agents who have put their lives on the line in defending the rest of Nigerians. He said that mere words of encouragement alone could go a long way in boosting the morale of the personnel as well as strengthening them to do more.