Nigeria’s vice president fetes country’s air force on its 59th anniversary as it fails to evacuate 2 million Nigerians trapped in Sudan’s conflict
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) celebrated its 59th anniversary Monday at its airbase in Enugu in the restive south east region with the vice president Yemi Osinbajo in attendance.
The vice president at NAF Enugu
This comes as over 2 million Nigerians remain trapped in war torn Sudan with the Air Force unable to provide the airlift that other countries’ airforces have provided in evacuating their citizens.
C-130 Hercules transport plane
According to the World Directory of Military Aircraft the NAF has 138 aircraft in its inventory both fixed wing and rotary platforms. Its airlift capacity consists of just three C-130 Hercules and one Boeing 737 which doubles as Nigeria’s Air Force One.
At NAF Enugu, Osinbajo represented President Muhammadu Buhari who was out of the country attending the coronation of King Charles III in London, took the salute, reviewed marching troops, watched a flyby and promised the airforce that the government was concentrating on making the force more professional by purchasing more fixed wing, rotary and unmanned aerial vehicles to enhance their professional capabilities.
“In the last four years, the administration acquired new air platforms for the Nigerian Air Force such as the JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighter aircraft, the A29 Super Tucano aircraft, the Diamond 62 aircraft and the T129 attack helicopter beach craft and the unmanned aerial systems and we have just commissioned two of those platforms that had been purchased earlier by this administration.”
JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighter
The vice -president did not mention if the government would be buying more transport planes. All the aircraft mentioned are used in fighting separatists in the north east and south east.
Osinbajo landed the air chief for his able leadership. Air Marshal Isiaka Oladayo Amao has been noticeably absent as the crisis in Sudan unfolded.
T129 attack helicopter
On Friday a C-130 that should have been deployed to assist in the Sudan evacuation was used in “flying out” high ranking air officers and their wives.
“I’d like to commend the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Isiaka Oladayo Amao CFR, and his team for the commendable leadership that they have shown in providing for the Nigerian Air Force. ” The vice president stated.
“I salute the result of our armed forces and the invaluable contributions of other security agencies in fully containing the security challenges in some parts of our nation, especially the contributions of the Nigeria Air Force in addressing the security challenges of armed banditry, cattle rustling and kidnapping in the Northwest and in the North-central.” He added.
On the future development of the air force, Osinbajo said he had a fruitful discussion with the air chief on partnering with civil experts focussing on research, innovation and self-reliance.
The self reliance will lead to the development of Nigeria military industrial complex the vice president asserted.
“This is manifesting in various ways from the locally developed operational unmanned aerial vehicle, the Tsaigumi, which the President formally inducted into service in February 2018, to this collaborative work being done at the Air Force Research and Development Center in Kaduna, to produce the first-ever made-in-Nigeria aircraft.”
As the Buhari administration winds down in preparation for handover on May 29, Osinbajo also stated that the security situation in the north east has “stabilised” and the country was now in a “recovery” and “resettlement” phase whereby repentant terrorists are re-integrated into society.
Akowe with reports from Abuja