Sequel to the federal government’s Executive Order 5 on local content production, the Nigerian Air Force leveraged on the sequence and has over the years, embarked on massive research and development initiatives in collaboration with local industries, TARKAA DAVID reports.
The military has been known for championing developments world over ranging from technology to clothing and other sectors. The Nigerian Air Force in line with this tradition has been championing the implementation of the President’s Executive Order 5 on local content through research and development.
The Force took advantage of the order in 2017 and established a tailoring workshop in Kaduna and later in Port Harcourt.
Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar while commissioning the facility in Port Harcourt stated that it would ensure the availability of various NAF uniforms and accoutrements for personnel in the southern part of the country.
Aside from the production of uniforms, especially flying suits and maintenance overalls, Air Marshal Abubakar added that the workshop had commenced the mass production of face masks that have been issued to NAF personnel and others following the COVID-19 pandemic.
He equally noted that the workshop had, through R&D efforts, developed PPEs, which after certification by relevant agencies distributed to NAF medical personnel and other healthcare workers engaged in the fight against COVID-19.
The CAS, while expressing his profound gratitude to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, for the enabling environment that had empowered the NAF to effectively maintain current platforms as well as acquired 22 brand new ones, also disclosed that the Service was expecting 16 additional brand new aircraft to boost its inventory.
These, he said, included a second Mi-171E helicopter as well as 3 JF-17 Multi-Role aircraft from Pakistan and 12 A-29 Super Tucano from the United States of America. Air Marshal Abubakar also congratulated the Air Officer Commanding (AOC), Tactical Air Command (TAC) as well as the officers, airmen/airwomen and civilian staff of 115 SOG who took part in the in-country reactivation of NAF 530.
He further commended the managing director NAFIL for his determination in ensuring that the company achieves its mandate.
Earlier in his welcome address, the AOC TAC, stated that the completion of the reactivation had not only given the NAF engineers and technicians the required skills in the maintenance of the platform but also augmented the number of available helicopters in the fight against insurgency and other criminal activities in the country.
On his part, the MD NAFIL said the Port Harcourt Workshop was an offshoot of the NAFIL Tailoring Workshop in Kaduna, which, he said, was an initiative of the current CAS towards making the NAF self-reliant in the production of uniforms.
He disclosed that the Kaduna workshop had produced over 116,000 pairs of uniforms for the NAF since its establishment in June 2017, which had saved the service the huge cost of importing such uniforms from abroad.
He noted that the new facility would mainly focus on the production of much-required flying suits for pilots and overalls for engineers and technicians in the NAF, while also enabling the training of airmen/airwomen recruited into the NAF as tailors as well as the dependants of personnel within the NAF Base Port Harcourt community and civilians from the neighbouring communities.
He however noted that the current task of the Workshop has been the production of PPEs and other accessories to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment had accredited the Nigerian Air Force Investment Limited (NAFIL) Tailoring Workshop in Kaduna and recommended it for use as a training centre for tailoring and garment making for the N-Power Programme of the federal government.
The director of Public Relations and Information Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola in a statement said with the accreditation, NAFIL Tailoring Workshop would be able to award Trade Test Certificates to its graduates.
Recall that the certificate of accreditation was presented in Kaduna by the Director Skills Development and Certification Department Mr Ibrahim Jibia who represented the Minister of Labour and Employment.
Jibia commended the NAF for initiating such a laudable programme to enable youths to acquire skills in tailoring and garment making.
He urged other members of the Armed Forces to emulate the NAF to assist youths to become employers of labour through skills acquisition. Mr Jibia recalled that he led a team to assess the equipment and the overall environment of the workshop in September 2018 for the purpose of accreditation.
He said, “this is the only place we have visited for this kind of exercise and are satisfied even on our first visit”.
He also expressed satisfaction with the level of participation of the local community in the tailoring workshop.
In his remarks, the managing director NAFIL, stated that the NAFIL Tailoring Workshop was meant to primarily make the NAF self-sufficient in uniform production.
He revealed that the workshop was initially to be established in partnership with a foreign firm, with the NAF being required to contribute N300 million. He noted, however, that NAFIL seized the initiative and established the workshop with less than N45 million, thus abiding by one of the key drivers of the CAS’ vision which is “Reinforcing a culture of self-reliance and prudent management of resources”.
He further disclosed that the workshop, since inception, has been an avenue to train NAF personnel, their wards and members of the host community.
Speaking during the event, the Air Officer Commanding Air Training Command, said NAFIL had not only provided the means to save hard-earned foreign currency but had created an avenue for the development of NAF personnel, their wards and the host community.
He extolled the leadership quality of the CAS in domesticating many aspects of NAF functions in order to harness abundant potentials in the service.
He said, “With a total staff strength of 106, comprising one officer, 37 airmen/airwomen and 68 civilians, the workshop runs round the clock in 3 shifts with various types of industrial tailoring machines.”
The Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar on 18 July 2019, embarked on a tour of the Nigerian Air Force Investment Limited (NAFIL) Tailoring Workshop in the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Base Kaduna for an on-the-spot assessment of facilities to ensure full compliance with the federal government’s directive for the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) and other security agencies to patronise the Nigerian Cotton, Textile and Garment (CTG) industry sector.
Conducting the CAS on the tour of facilities at the Tailoring Workshop, the MD NAFIL, noted that, as part of its efforts to meet the requirements for full compliance with the FG’s directive, the Workshop, which was certified by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity as a Trade Test Centre in September 2018, had acquired 34 additional high-end industrial machines bringing its inventory of machines and equipment to 140.
He said this had raised the Workshop’s optimal production capacity from 5,000 to 6,500 uniforms per month.
He revealed that four of the tailors were trained in advanced tailoring techniques in China after their initial training by NAF Technical Partners in Aba, Abia State.
At the end of the tour, the CAS who expressed satisfaction with NAFIL’s efforts as well as the immense progress made towards ensuring total self-reliance in terms of uniform production, said the workshop could now go beyond sewing regular uniforms to the production of flying and technicians suits as well as other uniform items and accoutrements. Air Marshal Abubakar stated that NAF tailoring services would be further expanded by opening two other centres in Makurdi and Lagos to meet the needs of the personnel.
The NAFIL Tailoring Workshop delivered its first batch of security uniforms sewn in its newly commissioned ultra-modern tailoring workshop in Kaduna ahead of the scheduled date in 2017.
Ibikunle said the delivery followed a contractual order by Imanue Easyklean Ltd for the NAFIL Tailoring Workshop to produce 2,917 shirts and 2,110 trousers.
“The first batch of security uniforms, consisting of 1,298 shirts, which were delivered ahead of schedule, was handed over to the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Company, Mr Adagboyi by the managing director of NAFIL”, he said.
He noted that the remaining shirts were delivered to the security outfit before the middle of August 2017 proven it can be relied upon anytime. Imanue Easyklean Ltd is an Abuja based company that produces uniforms for several security outfits attached to foreign embassies in Nigeria.
It would be recalled that the ultra-modern tailoring workshop was commissioned in June 2017 by the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar to ensure ample and timely provision of uniforms to personnel at low cost.
The venture was rated to have the value-added advantage of serving as a training facility for NAF personnel of the Tailoring Specialty. The workshop, with a total of 86 different industrial tailoring machines, has facilities obtainable in world-class tailoring facilities.
The idea behind the establishment of the workshop was to consolidate on Nigerian Air Force (NAF) efforts at self-sufficiency by developing the capacity for local production of military uniforms in large quantities. The facility, which is also available to meet the tailoring needs of schools, institutions and the general public, is positioned to make huge foreign exchange savings for the country.
Furthermore, in July 2019, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) also partnered with Woollen and Synthetic Textile Manufacturing Limited, Ikeja, for the local production of NAF uniform fabrics.
A team from Headquarters NAF, led by the Chief of Logistics, Air Vice Marshal Muhammed Yakubu, visited the company on, 16 July, 2019 to inspect facilities at the factory as well as assess the capability of the Company for mass production of high-quality NAF uniform fabrics.
Air Commodore Daramola said the fabrics, some of which were hitherto imported from abroad, would subsequently be sewn into NAF uniforms of various sizes at the NAF Investment Limited (NAFIL) Tailoring Workshop, Kaduna.
“It is expected that the NAF’s partnership with the Company, and others in the Nigerian CTG Industry, would further enhance the Nation’s self-reliance in terms of uniforms production whilst also boosting employment opportunities for Nigerians,” he said.
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) on 5 November 2019 further strengthened its strategic partnerships with the National Engineering Design Development Institute (NEDDI) as well as Ibeto Group, an indigenous company, both in Nnewi, Anambra State, to further boost Research and Development (R&D) efforts towards finding innovative solutions to NAF engineering and technical problems.
The rationale for expanding the partnerships according to the director is to ensure enhanced self-reliance in aircraft and equipment maintenance for the effective and efficient employment of Air Power in response to Nigeria’s national security imperatives.
The CAS while on the visit to the Ibeto Group Factory Complex, expressed his extreme delight with how the company had continued to partner with the NAF to produce batteries for the Mi-35P Helicopter Gunship which was being employed in operations to combat terrorists and insurgents in the Northeast as well as armed bandits and other criminal elements in the Northwest.
The CAS while commending the contributions of the company not only to the NAF but also to the entire Country, noted that the availability of spares and consumables was crucial to have a sufficient number of serviceable aircraft and, in turn, critical to ensuring effective and efficient employment of Air Power, which is vital to success in modern warfare.
He noted that while the NAF continues to enjoy support from its allies and friendly nations, it also realizes the need to develop indigenous capacity to produce some of the needed aircraft spares locally.
This, he said, informed the NAF’s decision to prioritize its partnerships with local companies like the Ibeto Group.
To further benefit from the inherent capabilities of the company, a joint team comprising NAF officers and staff of Ibeto Group was immediately set up to explore other areas of mutual benefit, that would boost NAF operations, through reduced aircraft downtimes, whilst also saving much-needed foreign exchange and implicitly keying into the Federal Government’s policy of job creation for Nigerian youths.
Earlier in his remarks the executive director Operations and Investment Ibeto Group, Chief Eze Echesi, who received the CAS on behalf of the chairman of the Group, Chief Cletus Ibeto, stated that the company was extremely pleased with the level of support and collaboration between the two organisations.
He canvassed for a deepening of the partnership as well as the expansion of the areas of patronage to include the production of batteries for other NAF aircraft types as well as the production of lubricants and other consumables for NAF platforms.
At NEDDI Nnewi, Air Marshal Abubakar, who was received by the chief executive officer, Engr Dr Arinze Nwosu, restated his commitment to developing indigenous technology through collaboration with the Institute.
He noted that the NAF, through its existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with NEDDI’s Parent Agency, the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, had undertaken a few collaborative projects with the institute.
He, however, emphasised that his visit to the Institute was aimed at identifying additional areas of collaboration where the NAF could tap from the Institute’s knowledge base and experience.
He noted that this would include collaborative engagements between NEDDI and the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) Kaduna. He reiterated that no country could fight a war effectively when wholly dependent on other countries for technology; hence the need to continuously look inwards for homegrown solutions.
Earlier, the NEDDI MD/CEO, while welcoming the CAS, stated that the Institute could serve as a centre for human capacity development of NAF engineers and technicians, especially in the areas of engineering design; machining; welding, fabrication and equipment assembly as well as Information and Communication Technology (ICT), amongst others.
In furtherance of its determination to ensure full compliance with the Federal Government’s directives to patronize the Nigerian Cotton, Textile and Garment (CTG) Industry Sector for its needs, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) is also partnered with the Zaria Industries Limited (ZIL) for the local production of tents and other associated items.
The partnership was revealed on 23 November 2019, when the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, undertook an assessment visit to the Company’s factory complex in Zaria, Kaduna State.
Speaking during the visit, the CAS stated that the NAF has always been at the forefront of looking inwards to ensure local content, as much as practicable, in meeting its operational and logistics needs. The objective, he said, was to reduce dependence on goods and services from abroad, with attendant socio-economic multiplier effects in terms of foreign exchange savings and job creation as well as a positive impact on national security.
The CAS emphasized that the NAF’s quest for collaborative ventures with local industries was premised on the fact that nations at war require the full participation and support of the private sector in terms of their knowledge, skills and value-added products in order to be successful.
He noted that ZIL was one of such industries whose products and services were important to NAF operations, especially for its Quick Response Groups (QRGs) and Quick Response Wings (QRWs).
Speaking after a guided tour of the factory, the CAS said he was excited about the potential value that ZIL products could add to the operations of the NAF. He noted that having been earlier impressed with the quality of the Company’s products, he had embarked on this personal assessment, along with a high-level delegation that could take decisions and initiate immediate action for the acquisition of the required materials for the NAF.
Air Marshal Abubakar added that the NAF would continue to encourage and support reputable local industries like ZIL in line with Mr President’s directives.
Earlier in his remarks, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of ZIL, Engineer (Engr) Ilyas Saleh, while welcoming the CAS, stated that the Company was established in 1975 as the first, and still the only major local manufacturer of tarpaulin materials used in the construction of tents, canopies, camp beds and truck covers in Nigeria and West Africa.
He noted, however, that despite its installed capacity to produce over 2 million square metres of 100 percent cotton-canvas tarpaulin fabrics as well as several metric tons of cotton yarn and many types of tents and camp beds, the company had been operating sub-optimally due to challenges such as poor power supply, high cost of raw materials and consumables as well as low patronage.
He however expressed appreciation that the policies of the current Federal Government (FG) Administration towards alleviating the challenges of the CTG Sector had begun to yield positive dividends in revamping the fortunes of the company with such patronage as that of the NAF. While thanking the CAS for the support in realizing the FG’s directives, he pledged ZIL’s commitment to manufacturing high-grade tarpaulin products to meet the NAF’s expectations in terms of cost and quality.
It is instructive to note that these partnership agreements and other ventures have been adding value to the service with the production of aircraft spare parts, reactivation of platforms locally and provision of uniforms to servicemen.
All these have cumulatively saved huge foreign currencies and created thousands of jobs for teeming youths, which indirectly contribute to the fight against crime and criminality in the country.