Abuja — The federal government yesterday said efforts had been put in place to fortify the air power of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) in order to combat rampant cases of terrorism, militancy and resource-based conflicts around the country.
The Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, stated this during the winging of 12 Nigerian pilots and two Liberian pilots at the NAF Headquarters in Abuja.
Dan-Ali who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Mrs Nuratu Bagatarawa, explained that the federal government was keen in "strengthening NAF air power in combating terrorism, militancy and resource-based conflicts in the country."
She added that the growing cases of conflicts in recent times compel the repositioning of the Nigerian Air Force to better safeguard the nation's territory and combat internal conflicts.
The Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, explained that "the 21st century is characterised by plethora of armed conflicts occasioned by struggle for political power among ethnic nationalities and sub-nationalities. Resource based conflicts, terrorism and militancy have also continued to define the post-cold war international environment.
"The NAF in the last three years or thereabout have continued to project air power both within and outside Nigeria.
"To achieve this, we have embarked on human capacity development to reposition the NAF to adequately deal with these challenges."
Abubakar added that "the winging ceremony we are about to witness today is a clear testimony of our commitment as a service that is responsive to the needs of our country and our people.
"The service has continued to discharge its mandate as provided in the Constitution of the Federal Republic, professionally and diligently.
"We are presently engaged with other security agencies in the North-east to deal with the Boko Haram terrorists threat to our national security. Our forces are equally in the North-west, South-south and North-central regions of the country.
"The accomplishments of our pilots and other personnel, who are undertaking daring missions in the face of real danger, are testimonies to the quality of training they have received.
Despite the successes we have recorded so far in all these multiple engagements, we are fully aware of the need to train and retrain personnel, including pilots required to deal with these challenges.
"Accordingly, we are not resting on our oars but constantly building the required capacity to optimally project air power in these theatres in fulfillment of our national security imperatives.
"In realisation of our drive for human capacity development through robust and result oriented training for enhanced professional performance, I am pleased that 12 more NAF pilots along with 2 of their Liberian counterparts are being winged today, having concluded their training in Kaduna and Ilorin.
"In addition, we have one student pilot with the Royal Moroccan Air Force and four student Instructor Pilots training at the Royal Jordanian Air Force.
"Coming back home, there are 64 student pilots at various stages of flying training in NAF Flying Training Schools. They are all expected to graduate by the end of this year," he added.
Liberian Minister of National Defence, Major Gen Daniel Zainkahn Jnr (rtd), commended Nigeria's efforts in securing Liberia and training of the country's military personnel.
Zainkahn added that several military assistance offered by Nigeria had gone a long way to strengthen Liberia's military capacity.
The event was attended Liberian Ambassador to Nigeria, Al-Hassan Conteh, Mrs Patricia Obi, representatives of the Defence and Naval Headquarters among other top dignitaries.