From: Kingsley Omonobi Abuja.
Worried by continued killings and bomb attacks by terrorists and gunmen that has continued to make tackling security challenges cumbersome in the country, and following confirmed intelligence that many of the gunmen are recruited from neighbouring countries, the federal government has directed the Nigerian Airforce to immediately take over the Air Border Patrols of the nation’s borders.
Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Mohammed Dikko Umar who made the disclosure at the opening of a two-day retreat for Commanders and Directors of NAF Formations in Abuja, noted that government was not satisfied with the performance of the former agency formerly vexed with the responsibility, after assessment hence it directed the NAF to assume the responsibility.
It would be recalled that the task of patrolling the nation’s vast territorial borders were given to the Nigeria Customs Service but with the challenges of the terrorist and Boko Haram sect whose members have been found to include mercenaries from neighbouring West African countries that sneak through the borders, government is keen to checkmate the influx.
Expatiating on the directive, Air Marshal Umar said, “We are absolutely ready to carry out any task the nation wants us to do. All we require is the directive and the assets to perform our functions. Government has assessed the efficiency of the agency handling it. But it found out that another agency will be more suited. It has found the NAF more suitable for the job and has assigned us the additional responsibility”.
“Though government has not transferred the assets of the Air Border Patrol to us, we are nonetheless gearing up with our platforms and going ahead to prepare for the tasks until the assets get to us”, he said.
On the operational readiness of the NAF, Air Marshal Umar said, “The NAF operational bases are active with over 65% of our aircraft fleets flying” noting that “with 14 aircraft types currently in operation, the duties of the Airforce including involvement in internal security operations across the country has necessitated thorough planning and coordination of operational and logistics activities in order to execute assigned tasks in the most cost effective manner”.
“The essence of this retreat is geared towards sensitizing you all on the need to live up to your responsibilities. It is even more expedient given the current security challenges confronting us as a nation, which leaves little or no room for error”, he told the Commanders.
Earlier, Chief of Training and Operations, Air Vice Marshal Ishiaku Umar disclosed that the retreat is timely considering that with the security problems facing the country, it can no longer be business as usual for commanders and directors who are the bridge between the men on the field and the top echelon of the force.
He noted that feedbacks from the field had revealed that some commanders have failed in one way or the other in their responsibilities especially as it concerned issues of instructor pilots and training which may have led to one or two air mishaps, failure to exercise disciplinary powers, ignorance of procedure, poor crew selection and omissions.
“There are also instances of failure to follow due elimination process, flagrant disregard for authority or neglect and inappropriate response to HQ NAF directives as well as delay in logistics procurement and distribution” which should not be the case, he said.