It is common knowledge that in Nigeria we have the culture of hardly applauding genuine patriotic service and valour to our dear country by many of our well-meaning leaders.
Obviously, there is no contesting the fact that the defend architecture of the of the Nigerian Army under the Buhari administration has continued to work organically to achieve the best possible security for Nigeria since 2015 in spite of all the daunting challenges.
Without equivocation, when this fact of our national life is micro-zoomed in on the three prime arms of the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Air Force deserves a commendatory applause along the line of the patriotic vision of its current leader, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar.
Late last December, Air Marshal Abubakar hosted the United States (US) Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington when he was at the NAF headquarters to present the Letters of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) in respect of the A29 Super Tucano Aircraft to the Nigerian Air Force (NAF).
The LOA represents the official US Government offer to sell US defence articles and services to the Nigerian Government.
Speaking while presenting the LOA to the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, at NAF Headquarters in Abuja, the US Ambassador noted that peaceful existence in Nigeria was strategic to the security of the entire West African Sub-Region in particular and the entire world at large.
Accordingly, Ambassador Symington expressed the commitment of the US Government to partner Nigeria to completely defeat the Boko Haram terrorists and also eliminate all forms of terrorism from its territory.
Additionally, the Ambassador conveyed the US Government belief that the capacity of the NAF could greatly be enhanced by the acquisition of the Super Tucano Aircraft and that US Government would therefore continue to support the NAF in its capacity building efforts, including the timely supply of needed aircraft spares.
The US Ambassador also indicated the readiness of relevant US Government officials to work with NAF officials to facilitate the early delivery of the aircraft after payment for the air craft must been effected.
Viewed from ordinary premise, the presentation of Letters of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) in respect of the A29 Super Tucano Aircraft to the Nigerian Air Force may seem natural bilateral between two counties. However, a more cursory probe will proof that it is no mean achievement by the Sadique Abubakar-led Nigerian Air Force.
From the point of view of strategic warfare against the insidious Boko Haram insurgents, A29 Super Tucano Aircraft is plus for the hard-fighting Nigerian Air Force.
“The Super Tucano also named ALX or A-29, is a turboproplight attack aircraft designed for counter-insurgency, close air support, and aerial reconnaissance missions in low-threat environments, as well as providing pilot training.
Designed to operate in high temperature and humidity conditions in extremely rugged terrain, the Super Tucano is highly maneuverable, has a low heat signature, and incorporates fourth-generation avionics and weapons systems to deliver precision-guided munitions”.
Also, the acquisition of A29 Super Tucano Aircraft under the leadership of Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar is departure from the debauchy witnessed in arms acquisition by leadership of the Nigerian Air Force in the past.
This is particularly with reference to the recently revelation by the committee established to audit the procurement of arms and equipment in the Armed Forces and Defence sector from 2007 to 2015 by President Muhammadu Buhari.
As it will be recalled, in November 2013, Nigeria has shown interest in acquiring twelve brand new Super Tucanos. Three aircraft was already bought from the Brazilian Air Force inventory in 2017.
In April 2017, the United States indicated that it would be moving forward with a deal to sell up to 12 of the aircraft for up to US$600 million, ending delays that had been caused by human-rights concerns as well as hitherto corruption in the process of the arms acquisition.
In August 2017, the US Department of State had approved of the sale of 12 aircraft and associated supplies and weapons birthing the presentation the Letters of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) in respect of the A29 Super Tucano Aircraft to the Nigerian Air Force (NAF).
Though largely unsung, the Nigerian Air Force, NAF, under Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, has contributed immensely in sustaining the war against Boko Haram in the north eastern region of the country since 2015.
From air bombardment of the terrorists’ camps, supply of ammunition to the land soldiers to facilitating the evacuation of wounded personnel; the NAF has played a great role in flushing out and defeating the insurgents in North-Eastern part of the country.
The admiring role of Nigerian Air Force in containing the notorious activities of the Boko Haram insurgents should be appreciated against the background of the fact that when Air Marshal Abubakar took over the leadership of NAF, this prime arm of the tripartite in the Nigerian Army had only two fighter airplanes to combat the insurgents at Sambisa Forest, which alone is about 60,000 sq. km. and deal with other security challenges in other flash points in the country.
Cheeringly however, against the 2 fighter airplanes that were initially engaged, NAF’s fleet had got increased to 9 fighter airplanes before the presentation the Letters of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) in respect of the A29 Super Tucano Aircraft to Nigeria by Ambassador Stuart Symington of the United States of America.
Being aware of the fact that in every counter insurgency operation, there is need for support of the populace because both the insurgents and government forces are trying to win the heart of the local communities, the new NAF under Air Marshal Abubakar instituted a number of programmes aimed at winning the hearts and minds of the local people in the North-East.
One of such programmes is the medical outreach; the new NAF has established a level-2 hospital, with big facilities like we have laboratory, wards for female and male children. Thus, when there are serious health cases patients are moved out from the IDPs hospital to NAF’s hospital in the base where experts conduct operations, particularly for the elderly and NAF also provides water in the IDPs camps.
NAF has bore-holes and also provides shelters and some toilet facilities within Maiduguri itself. Outside Maiduguri, NAF has another hospital in Bama, which is not only involved in providing medical needs for the IDPs but also has a programme aimed at feeding the children.
There is no contesting the fact that Air Marshal Abubakar’s vision is to reposition the Air Force into a highly professional and disciplined service through capacity building initiatives.
Evidently, the Air Force boss is of the belief that professionalism is equally about recognising the critical factor that welfare of personnel play in achieving effectiveness and efficiency in providing airpower to deal with our national security challenges. Consequently, the new NAF has focus on providing office and residential accommodations for its personnel.
In Maiduguri NAF has built over 50 units of accommodation for its airmen. Also in Kaduna, Makurdi, Yola, and Lagos, accommodations have been provided for Air Force men and officers with internet facilities for them to check their mails and certain facts about flying.
Lastly, NAF also has what it calls Barrack Boys and Girls Skills Acquisition. This is aimed at making sure that NAF builds capacity and add value to the relatives of its personnel, particularly non-commissioned officers. Thus in addition to going to schools to learn and live their dream, the thinking is that they need to acquire certain skills that can keep them busy especially during holidays and add to purchasing power of their individual family.