IT is shocking the number of military air crashes and losses we have experienced as a nation in the past six years. We are left wondering: what is really going on in the Nigerian Air Force, NAF?
Between August 29, 2015 and now, Nigeria has suffered eleven military plane crashes with no fewer than 33 military officers perishing. These include the Air Force plane crash which killed seven on board (August 29, 2015) in Kaduna; F-7NI jet on October 10, 2015 and Augusta Westland crash in Makurdi (November 15).
This year alone the Air Force has lost at least three jets. They were the Beechcraft KingAir350i which went down with all seven officers on board in Abuja on March 21, 2021; the Alpha Jet which crashed while supporting troops in the North-East on April 3, 2021 and now the biggest of them all – the crash of a military jet conveying Nigeria’s 25th Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru and 10 other officers on board at the Kaduna Airport. He assumed the post on January 26, 2021.
Nigerians were also disappointed that President Muhammadu Buhari did not attend the burial of these officers. He merely approved a day off for military personnel and ordered flags flown at half-staff between Monday, May 24, 2021, and Wednesday, May 26, 2021. We had expected more empathy than that from a president who appointed Attahiru to that coveted position at the current height of our security headaches.
After each crash, the authorities always vow to investigate the cause. Now with such high number of incidences, perhaps we should go beyond the routine interrogation of these horrendous losses by involving outside experts to help uncover what may be behind these crashes. Why is the military losing so many personnel and war machines at a time that civilian or commercial aviation is enjoying a prolonged stability and safety?
We need to reexamine whether the military, especially the Nigerian Air Force, is still maintaining respect for merit in terms of recruitment, training and deployment of officers to man these aircraft and carry out crucial national assignments. We are worried about increasing allegations of nepotism and one-sidedness even in our military and security appointments.
We can ill-afford the needless loss of our officers and equipment trained or procured at great public expense, especially at this moment of unprecedented, multifarious security challenges and lack of funds. Unless we quickly rise to fix whatever is ailing our military, we may find it increasingly difficult to grapple with the challenges posed by the country’s enemies.
We join millions of well-meaning Nigerians to pray for the souls of the departed and hope that their families will not be forgotten.