President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday in Abuja inducted two Agusta 109 Power Attack Helicopters into the Nigerian Air Force, NAF, aircraft inventory.
The NAF recently took delivery of two new helicopters to be unveiled by President Buhari during its 55th anniversary.
Mr Buhari, who was away in London for a 10-day vacation, was represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, said he was happy to be part of the celebration.
He said that it was part of the federal government’s commitment to equipping of the armed forces in order to tackle insecurity and protect Nigerians.
“As part of our continued commitment to equip the armed forces toward tackling insecurity and protecting our citizens, after this parade today, I will induct into the Service of the Nigerian air force 2 x Agusta 109 Power Helicopters which were recently delivered.
“These helicopters and other additional helicopters expected to arrive in the next few months will surely boost performance of the Nigerian air force constitutional roles.
“I, therefore charge you to redouble your efforts toward protecting our national interests, while at the same time degrading national security threats,’’ he said
The president said the NAF had been fulfilling its constitutional mandate of preserving Nigeria’s territorial integrity through the employment and projection of air power.
“Aside the role of preserving territorial integrity, the Nigerian air force has also been playing vital roles in Peace-Keeping Operations on the African continent,” he said.
He also acknowleged the role played by the NAF in airlifting of electoral materials.
“These remarks will not be complete without acknowledging the roles played by the Nigerian air force in the just concluded general elections.
“I am aware of the efficient airlift of electoral materials as well as aerial surveillance conducted by the Nigerian air force which contributed to the success of the elections.
“This went a long way in checkmating the activities of electoral saboteurs and other criminal elements.
“I therefore use this opportunity to commend the armed forces and other security agencies for a job well done,’’ Buhari said
He said he was impressed by the display and professionalism put up by the officers, airmen and airwomen of the Nigerian air force at the ceremonial parade.
“Military parades of this nature have been a way of determining soldierly qualities and troops’ cohesion.
“The March-Past was elegantly conducted with precision and the parade was generally colourful.
“This is an epitome of discipline and excellent military posture, which are hallmarks of a modern fighting force.
“I am further excited by the aerial display by the Nigerian air force airplanes. The displays demonstrate Nigerian air force’s commitment to achieving high standards of operational readiness.
“This ceremony will leave an indelible impression in my memory and indeed in the memories of all of us here present,’’ he said.
The president commended the Chief of the Air Staff, CAS, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, and his team for the commendable leadership they provided for the Nigerian air force.
“As a country, we are particularly proud that in less than four years, we have been able to revitalise our armed forces for the full restoration of Nigeria’s territorial integrity that was once violated by Boko Haram insurgents.
“As the air arm of the armed forces, the Nigerian air force has continued to play very crucial roles in degrading the fighting capabilities of the Boko Haram Terrorists in the North-East where our officers, airmen, soldiers and ratings have performed gallantly,’’ he said.
Earlier, Abubakar noted that 55 years of the existence of the Nigerian Air Force had been very eventful.
“During this period, the NAF was confronted with a myriad of challenges. However, we were able to surmount these challenges and progressively maturing in the process.
“The NAF has also grown in size, spread and equipment holding all in a bid to fulfill its statutory obligation of protecting and defending the territorial integrity of Nigeria from the air,’’ he said.
Abubakar said that the growth of the NAF since the inception of the Service had been particularly outstanding, adding that ” from having only a few trainers and transport aircraft in the early years of the service, the Nigerian air force currently has an impressive ORBAT ( Order of Battle) comprising diverse aircraft with capabilities to perform a wide spectrum of missions.’’
“We have also continued to build upon the foundations laid by our noble predecessors by re-activating several aircraft that were hitherto grounded; acquired and inducted various platforms into service and increased the strength of service personnel by 7,500 airmen/airwomen and 400 officers.
“Additionally, two new commands and two staff branches were established to meet the evolving security challenges we are faced with,’’ the air chief said.
The high points of the anniversary was Order of Battle (ORBAT) Flypast /Aerial Display in five formations.
The five formations are: the Aplha Formation, Super Mushack formation ,Diamond formation,Sentinel formation and the Thunder formation.
Others are: Silent Drill and K-9 Special Forces Display as well as Unveiling of the Agusta 109 and Research and Development Exhibition Dispersal.(NAN)