The Nigerian Air Force has said it is about to acquire fighter aircraft from Italy and Pakistan for the fight against insurgents, bandits and other criminal elements across the country.
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, said this in Abuja on Thursday when he appeared before the House of Representatives’ Committee on Air Force to defend the force’s budget for 2020.
He said some of the jets were about to be shipped to Nigeria.
Abubakar said NAF was carrying out eight special operations in different parts of the country and flying over 65,000 hours out of which 21,900 hours were flown in the North-East.
The CAS said while NAF had continued to provide support to the ground troops, “we have also continued to engage criminal elements that are trying to undermine the security of our country.”
He added, “We want to appreciate the National Assembly for the approval for the appropriation to acquire aircraft. We are about to acquire two helicopter gunships from Italy. We have a shipment inspection team in Italy to ensure that what is supposed to come with the aircraft is intact before they are shipped to Nigeria. We believe that the helicopter gunships will be in before the end of the year.
“We have made substantial progress in terms of acquiring the JF-17 (Thunder) fighter aircraft from Pakistan and I believe that very soon our officers and men will move to Pakistan for training while the production of the aircraft is ongoing.”
Abubakar said NAF had engaged over 10,000 Nigerian youths and was training another 2,000 to enhance the nation’s security.
He said NAF had specifically engaged about 600 graduates and was about to bring in another 120 graduates.
Earlier, the Chairman of the House Committee on Air Force, Mohammed Koko, had called for a quick response operation against banditry ravaging the North-West geopolitical zone.
Koko commended the Chief of Air Staff and all the officers of the Nigerian Air Force for the good work they were doing to curtail the “nagging security challenges” in the country.
He noted that since Abubakar assumed the leadership of NAF, “the problem of insurgency and other security problems in the country have drastically reduced through the fighting skills and airpower of the Nigerian Air Force.”
Koko added, “I would be delighted if you could equally extend the security apparatus and airpower of the Nigerian Air Force to the old Sokoto State, presently comprising Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara, in order to nip in the bud, the perennial security challenges in this area by establishing a Quick Response Wing in Kebbi State, which has two international borders with Benin Republic and Niger Republic, to assist in curtailing increased insecurity challenges in the area.”