The Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, has said that the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has fared better in the 21 years of Nigeria’s democracy than during the military regime.
The Air Force chief also said that the service also contributed immensely in military operations in the last five years of President Muhammadu Buhari than any other administration.
According to the CAS, before now, NAF was relegated to the background, adding that the acquisition of combat aircraft helped the service to go into full military operations.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP, the CAS, said apart from the few planes that were acquired for the Airforce during the administration of President Shehu Shagari, it was the first time they were having it better with some combat aircraft added into its fleet.
Abubakar, while responding to a question on how the Air Force has fared in the last 21 years of Nigerian Democracy, said they are having it better now than during the military regime.
“I think we have fared very well under the democratic governance and there is no doubt about that,” Abubakar said while counting the number of aircraft the service has gotten in the civilian rule.
“I just told you the number of aircraft that we are expecting and we have brought in 22 and another 16. If you put everything together, we will have 38 aircrafts.
“Apart from the Shehu Shagari’s administration, that is the only administration that once acquired some aircraft for the Air Force which was in 1983. And from 1983 to date is quite a number of years. So, we have fared extremely well,” Abubakar said while thanking the National Assembly and the President for understanding their plight.
“The National Assembly has demonstrated a lot of understanding of what we require to be effective because we need a stable environment, a secured environment for democracy to flourish. If that stable and secured environment is not there it entails that there will be a lot of problems. So, because of that, the National Assembly has demonstrated a lot of commitment and understanding of what we required to function.
“Also, the President and Commander -in- Chief is very familiar with the system and he equally understand the relevance of Air power projections in resolving any conflict. So, I think we have been able to benefit a lot under democratic dispensation as against when the military was in power,” Abubakar added.
“This is the first time in many years that we are beginning to really show the relevance of the Nigerian Airforce in resolving conflict. The issue of having the Airforce in the background is no longer there. It is about projecting Air power and we have in the last four and a half years been projecting the Air power not only within Nigeria, but outside Nigeria,” the CAS said.
Apart from the fight against Boko Haram and bandits in some parts of the country, Abubakar said they have carried out important operations both within and outside the country.
“We have taken relief materials to Sierra Leone; we have gone out there to resolve the issue of Gambia at the beginning of 2018. We were the only country in West Africa that went with fighter Aircrafts into Senegal from there, flew to The Gambia and that was when the defeated president realized that the game was over.
“That is within the West Africa sub-region. Now in other conflict and disasters management services areas, we have brought back so many Nigerians from Cameroon, we have supported Malawi during theirflooding. C-130 have gone there – to Mozambique, Zimbabwe and we haveflown relief materials on behalf of the federal government to many places. So, that is the projection of Air power outside Nigeria,” Abubakar said.
Speaking on their contribution in the 2019 general elections, Abubakar said they moved over a million kilograms of electoral materials without which there could not have been any elections.
“Within Nigeria, in the 2019 general Elections, we moved over a million kilograms of electoral materials without which there would not have been any elections. And in record time, our Aircraft were flying almost 24 hours to make sure that these materials were distributed in about 32 locations and in some of these locations, we even provided the ground handling equipment to bring the materials out of the Aircraft because they were not there.
“So, this is within Nigeria and of course we are in the Northeast and we have killed so many bandits in the North West recently. So, in terms of projecting Air power, I think we have done extremely well both within and outside Nigeria. In terms of capacity building, we have done substantially well. In terms of making sure that the gap between the Air power protection and Air power projection is bridged, we have done substantially well as well. In terms of training of pilots, over a hundred and fourteen have been trained within a short period of time,” Abubakar said.