President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday, commissioned a new Air Force helicopter. This was in furtherance of the onslaught against the insurgent group, Boko Haram.
Speaking at the induction and commissioning ceremony of the newly acquired NAF MI-171E Helicopter, two reactivated Alpha Jets and one L39ZA aircraft, President Buhari said: “On our part, we will continue to support you in any way we can to help you become more effective in the execution of your mandate for the safety and security of our country.”
The President said his administration has boosted the capacity of the Nigerian Air Force by 23 brand new aircraft in recent times with more still on the way.
“Today’s induction brings to 23 the number of brand new aircraft that have been added to the inventory of the Nigerian Air Force since we came on board in 2015 and is a clear reflection of our unflinching commitment to ensuring the security of Nigeria and Nigerians.
“These 23 new aircraft are aside the 15 additional aircraft, including 12 Super Tucano aircraft from the United States of America and 3 JF-17 Thunder Multi-Role Fighter aircraft from Pakistan that have been procured and will soon be delivered”, he said.
He said these are aside support towards reactivating over 25 erstwhile unserviceable aircraft “significantly boosting the capacity of the Service to deliver robust air power in support of our counter terrorism and counter insurgency efforts.”
Buhari said he had released two Agusta 101 helicopters from the Presidential Air Fleet to the Nigerian Air Force to improve its tactical lift capability.
The President also commended the military for successes recorded so far especially by restoring “some level of stability not only in Borno and Yobe states but also in Adamawa State.”
President Buhari, who highlighted critical roles of the Air Force in internal security as well as international operations, said “It is noteworthy that our Air Force has, since its establishment in 1964, been playing critical roles in national security as well as in peace-keeping operations on the African continent.
“Her contributions in internal security, peace keeping and humanitarian operations in places like The Gambia, Guinea Conakry, Mozambique, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Guinea Bissau and Cameroon have not only been a source of pride to us as a Nation but has also projected us as a reliable regional power that has helped stabilise other nations and stood firm in defence of democracy.
“This is indeed most commendable as the Nigerian Air Force, alongside other services, continues to play its unique role in the counter-insurgency operations in the North East and anti-banditry operations in the North West as well as other operations in other parts of the country where our officers, airmen and airwomen, soldiers and ratings are performing gallantly.”
He further thanked Nigerians for “believing in us and coming together as a Nation, irrespective of political, religious and ethnic affiliations, to bring this scourge to an end.”
In his remarks, the Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Salihi Magashi (Retd) said, “President Buhari, since assumption of office, prioritised national security at the top of his agenda and part of it is reequipping the Armed Forces to enhance their operational effectiveness.”
He urged the Nigerian Air Force to abide by the maintenance schedules of the aircraft to enable the nation get the best out of them.