The Executive Governor of Plateau State, Right Honourable Simon Bako Lalong, has commended the visionary leadership of the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, as well as his outstanding diligence in the discharge of duties, which he said would surely transform the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) to become the best Air Force in Africa.
“We are witnesses to the great attention the CAS has paid to the welfare and training of personnel of the NAF throughout the country. He has also ensured the acquisition of air platforms and other equipment necessary for the operations of the Force”, he said.
The Governor gave this commendation today, 9 September 2020, while commissioning some infrastructure projects for NAF personnel at the 205 Combat Search and Rescue Group (205 CSARG) and the newly established Air Provost Training Centre (APTC), at NAF Base Kerang, Mangu Local Government Area (LGA) of Plateau State.
The commissioned projects include 2 blocks of 10 x single bedroom furnished residential accommodation for airmen instructors and students of the APTC as well as an Officers’ Mess for officers of the 2 Units.
The Governor, who was also in Kerang in 2017 during the groundbreaking ceremony/commissioning of the 205 CSARG Headquarters Building, noted that the establishment of the Special Operations Command (SOC) and subsequent siting of the Group in Kerang were glowing evidences of the resolve, commitment, and determination of the Federal Government to ensure that law-abiding citizens are secured and peaceful coexistence of all Nigerians guaranteed.
He noted that the remarkable transformation that had taken place were also hallmarks of the CAS’ dynamic leadership. While highlighting that his Administration, with the cooperation of the Plateau citizens and support of the Federal Government and security agencies, had ensured the return of peace, he noted that there was a need for vigilance against merchants of crises who are always scheming to take the State to the dark days.
He, therefore, called on the good people of Plateau State and especially the Kerang Community, who generously acceded to the approval of this expanse of land for the Unit, to continue to maintain peaceful and harmonious coexistence in the interest of national security.
Governor Lalong further observed that prior to the establishment of 205 CSARG, the Plateau State Government already had a cordial working relationship with the NAF which, he said, played a significant role in tackling insecurity, promoting education, and delivering quality healthcare services to Plateau citizens.
He added that the establishment of the Group had widened the NAF’s participation in the consolidation of peace and security of the State, particularly in the rural areas.
He stated further that, as Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, he was aware of the deployments of NAF air assets and personnel not only to Plateau State and other parts of the North but to other parts of the Country where such challenges exist.
“On behalf of my colleagues, I register our appreciation to the President, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari, and the CAS for responding to our pleas promptly”, he added.
While urging personnel of the Service to continue to foster the high standards of good civil-military relations with host communities for which the NAF is known, the Governor reassured the CAS of his Administration’s commitment towards supporting the Service at all times.
In his remarks at the occasion, Air Marshal Abubakar, while lauding Governor Lalong’s continued demonstration of strong commitment to the security of the people of Plateau State, noted that the reason for establishing the 205 CSARG was primarily to further bring security closer to the people of the State.
He noted that this was in keeping with his Vision upon assumption of office in 2015 which was “To reposition the NAF into a highly professional and disciplined force through capacity building initiatives for effective, efficient and timely employment of airpower in response to Nigeria’s national security imperatives”.
He further disclosed that, after assessing the structure of the Service, at the time it was observed that it was inadequate to properly actualize the Vision.
The CAS noted that deliberate steps were therefore taken to expand the organizational structure of the Service with the creation of 2 new Field Commands, the Special Operations Command (SOC) headquartered in Bauchi and the Ground Training Command (GTC) in Enugu, as well as several specialized Units, including those at Owerri in Imo State; Gusau in Zamfara State; Lafia in Nasarawa State; Agatu in Benue State, Gembu in Taraba State and Bauchi in Bauchi State.
Others, he said, included the NAF Detachment in Birnin Gwari, Kaduna State; a Forward Operating Base in Damaturu, Yobe State; Quick Response Wing in Lafia, Nasarawa State as well as the newly established 203 Combat Reconnaissance Group in Gombe, Gombe State, and the 205 CSARG Kerang. The CAS noted that the upgraded structure has positioned the Service to more effectively ensure the security of Nigeria and Nigerians, working in synergy with sister Services and other security agencies.
Speaking further, the CAS stated that the NAF’s ability to realize the Vision had also been boosted by the immense support of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, which had enabled the Service to procure 22 brand new aircraft in the past 5 years, which were already deployed for operations in different parts of the Country. He equally disclosed that the NAF was also expecting 17 additional aircraft to be delivered before the end of the Year 2021.
The CAS noted that in order to effectively man these aircraft the Service had winged 114 new pilots since 2015, while another 103 student pilots were undergoing various levels of training to become qualified NAF pilots.
He further noted that the Service had trained over 2,000 new engineers and technicians with another 500 expected to graduate from the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) by next week.
The CAS also noted that the Service had trained over 4,000 Regiment and Special Forces personnel to ensure the protection of its bases and air assets.
Air Marshal Abubakar emphasized that the overall objective was to ensure that the Service builds a robust capacity to ensure a secured, united, and prosperous Nigeria.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Air Officer Commanding (AOC) SOC, Air Vice Marshal Charles Ohwo, noted that since the establishment of 205 CSARG in 2017, the NAF had continued to build capacity to ensure that the NAF has the capability for effective, efficient and timely CSAR missions.
He disclosed that after the first few personnel were trained abroad, the training of subsequent sets of CSAR was conducted locally at Kaduna and Ipetu-Ijesha, due to the high cost of foreign training.
These personnel, who he said, were capable of tracking, searching, locating, and rescuing occupants of downed combat aircraft or personnel in distress, were currently deployed to various Theatres of Operation across the Country.
The AOC added that for the Unit to effectively undertake its roles of medical and casualty evacuation, it needs to be strengthened and equipped with platforms, equipment, and highly-trained professionals. According to him, the CAS, being mindful of this, had authorized the execution of several projects, which he said, were at various stages of completion.
These, he said, included a standard 22-bed Medical Centre, which would not only cater to NAF personnel but also members of the host community and others who may be referred to the facility.
Also present at the event were the Plateau State Deputy Governor, Professor Sonny Theoden, and other top Government functionaries of the State, Traditional Rulers form Mangu LGA as well as the Commander Operation SAFE HAVEN, Branch Chiefs from the NAF Headquarters, AOC Ground Training Command and other senior military officers.