By Joy Odor
The Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, has tasked Nigerian Air Force (NAF) personnel of the Air Component of Operation HADARIN DAJI not to relent in their efforts but to press on until acts of banditry, kidnapping and other forms of criminality are brought to an end.
He charged the personnel to maintain control of the operational space and exploit every intelligence resource.
The CAS made this known in the luncheon organized by the NAF to celebrate the Eid-El-Kabir with frontline troops in Katsina and made available by the Director of Public Relations and Information, Nigerian Air Force, Air Commodore IBIKUNLE DARAMOLA in a press statement to newsmen in Abuja.
He highlighted that the tradition of having lunch with frontline troops during festivities was borne out of the need to strengthen the bond of comradeship, foster espirit-de-corps and create a more relaxed atmosphere for troops to unwind whilst remaining geared up to face the tasks ahead.
He noted that the luncheons also served as avenues to celebrate and appreciate the hard work, dedication, resilience and patriotism of the personnel as well as convey his support for the smooth and timely execution of their assigned missions.
Air Marshal Abubakar, while remembering the sacrifices of all those who had paid the supreme price in service to the Nation, prayed that God would grant their families comfort, even as the NAF continues to acknowledge their efforts with gestures like the Group Life Insurance and other incentives.
Air Marshal Abubakar, disclosed that the planned construction of an aircraft hangar for the NAF at the Umar Musa Yar’adua Airport Katsina, through direct labour, would soon commence.
He noted that the emplacement of the hangar would add value to efforts at enhancing aircraft serviceability by providing shelter for the aircraft and maintenance personnel from the harsh weather conditions.
The CAS equally revealed that some of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) being procured for the NAF would be stationed in Katsina and Gusau, to cover the North West, and Gombe for the North East.
He stated that steps were also being taken to improve the development and employment of NAF Special Forces in order to keep them motivated to remain the excellent lethal force they had become.
The CAS commended the Air Officer Commanding Special Operations Command (AOC SOC), Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Charles Owho, the Air Component Commander Operation HADARIN DAJI, Commander 213 FOB, officers and airmen/airwomen in Katsina for their exemplary conduct, professionalism and commitment.
He especially lauded the efforts of the NAF engineers and technicians in maintaining high level of aircraft serviceability despite disruptions to the aircraft spares logistics supply chain caused by flight restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
He also expressed his satisfaction with the performance of the Air Component in the recently concluded subsidiary Operation RUWAN WUTA, which, he said, achieved success in significantly degrading the capacity of the bandits and curtailing their ability to carry out attacks on innocent citizens thereby enabling friendly forces to conduct necessary operations successfully.
The resultant effect of the over 1,300 hours of air operations conducted since January 2020, the CAS said, was the arresting of the deteriorating security situation in the North West Zone, particularly in Katsina State.
Air Marshal Abubakar reminded the bandits that no forest would serve as safe havens for them, as the NAF would smoke them out to ensure innocent lives are protected.
He therefore called on the bandits to lay down their arms and surrender to appropriate authorities or face the consequences.
The CAS expressed the gratitude of the Service to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, for his untiring support which had enabled the NAF to more effectively execute its statutory roles.
He equally thanked Governor Masari as well as the Emir of Katsina and the good people of Katsina State for their cooperation and support to the NAF, which he noted included the provision of land for the establishment of the NAF Bases in Katsina and Daura.
He pledged the commitment of the Service to reciprocate by exhibiting the highest levels of professionalism in the conduct of all its operations.
“For the serving gallant personnel that you are, we will continue to provide necessary tools to enhance your precise and effective prosecution of operations such as infrastructure, modern equipment, communication, vehicles, personal protective equipment and so on”, he added.
“We must continue to remain focused by maintaining the highest level of vigilance and combat readiness that the NAF is known for in order to rid our communities of criminal elements”, he added.
This is just as His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Katsina State, Right Honourable Aminu Bello Masari, who was the Guest of Honour at the luncheon, commended NAF personnel for their substantial sacrifices in the fight against armed banditry.
Governor Masari, while appreciating the immense contributions of the NAF in addressing the security challenges facing Katsina State and the entire North West Zone, expressed delight that construction of the aircraft hangar, along with ancillary facilities, would soon commence.
He equally lauded the steps being taken to acquire UAVs that would operate from Katsina, noting that this would undoubtedly add impetus to operations in the area.
The Governor noted that the security challenges being experienced in the State were definitely surmountable with the right kind of support from the general public.
He stressed that the people would need to provide credible information to the Armed Forces and other security agencies whilst denying same to the bandits.
According to him, “the bandits are intertwined within the communities so sometimes it may be difficult for the NAF or the Army to distinguish them from the locals to conduct offensive operations devoid of collateral damage.
“The locals must stop giving support, information or safe havens to these criminals”.
Governor Masari added that the State Government, on its part, had initiated action to amend extant laws with a view to enhancing the authority of village heads and local authorities to bring real governance and policing closer to the people.
He said this would compliment ongoing efforts to emplace a robust community policing structure, whilst addressing the gross deficit in the number of police personnel available at local levels, which, he said, was in the range of an average of about 30 policemen to about 100 villages.
He emphasized that if such actions were not taken, even if the bandits were wiped out by the military, another generation of criminal elements would quickly take their place in the absence of governance and adequate policing.
Governor Masari ended his address by assuring that his Government would continue to support all operations of the NAF and sister Services in Katsina State to ensure the peace and security of the people of the State.
Other dignitaries in attendance at Katsina luncheon included the Deputy Governor of Katsina State, the Secretary to the Katsina State Government, Speaker of the State House of Assembly as well as other State Government officials and heads of security agencies in the State along with Branch Chiefs and Directors from Headquarters NAF and other senior military officers.
In keeping with the CAS’ tradition of spending festive periods with the NAF troops in the frontlines, similar luncheons were also held at 207 Quick Response Group (QRG) Gusau in Zamfara State, 21 Quick Response Wing (QRW) Agatu in Benue State, 22 QRW Lafia in Nasarawa States and 23 QRW Gembu in Taraba State yesterday, 31 July 2020. Similarly, the CAS, represented by the Chief of Policy and Plans, AVM Oladayo Amao, and the Chief Communication Information Systems, AVM Paul Dimfwina, also feted troops of the Air Task Force Operation LAFIYA DOLE in Maiduguri and Yola, respectively, while in Sokoto the AOC Tactical Air Command, AVM Olusegun Philip, stood in for the CAS as he celebrated the Sallah with troops of the 119 Composite Group Sokoto today, 1 August 2020.