The Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Nigerien Air Force, Colonel Amirou Abdoulkader, has assured the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) of his commitment towards strengthening the strategic relationship with the NAF in the fight against insurgency and other criminal activities affecting Nigeria and the Republic of Niger, whilst also taking advantage of the opportunities available in the NAF to enhance professionalism and build needed capacity for the effective and efficient employment of Air Power in his Service.
The Nigerien CAS disclosed this on Tuesday, when he led a delegation on an official visit to the outgoing NAF CAS, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, at Headquarters NAF, Abuja.
While in Nigeria, the Nigerien CAS also served as the Guest of Honour as the NAF winged 7 additional NAF pilots; 6 of whom recently completed their Basic and Intermediate Fixed Wing Training at 403 Flying Training School, Kano, while the seventh completed his training with the Indian Air Force.
In his remarks during the visit, Colonel Amirou Abdoulkader, restated the commitment of the Niger Republic to strengthen the existing cordial relationship between the two air forces, which so far has yielded several mutually beneficial military collaborations. He noted that Nigeria and Niger are neighboring countries that share a common border of about 1,500km and have always maintained exemplary and fraternal relations covering social, cultural economic, and security interests amongst others.
He furthernoted that the context of the security challenges being faced by both countries necessitates greater synergy in relations on all levels. The Nigerien CAS disclosed that the mandate of the visit was to ensure the protection of the respective countries from all kinds of threats, both external and internal. He added that the nature of conflicts and the persistence of groups associated with unhealthy activities require the 2 countries to find lasting solutions and continuously adapt to current and future threats. According to him, “we must continue to strengthen our human, material and operational capacities in order to be in line with current and future threats. It is in this context we visited the NAF which represents a model in the sub-region and could assist us to ensure growth and consolidation of our achievements.”
The Nigerien CAS also commended Air Marshal Abubakar for his visionary, focused and upright leadership, while lauding NAF’s pivotal role in Counter Insurgency (COIN) Operations in Nigeria. He thanked the NAF CAS for the collaboration with Diffa Air Base 501 (BA501), and further urged the BA501 and the ATF to sustain the momentum. He prayed that the visit would mark a significant turning point in collaboration between the countries’ armed forces.
While welcoming the Nigerien CAS, Air Marshal Abubakar remarked that Twenty First Century security challenges require strong collaboration and strategic partnerships to successfully overcome them.
He noted that this was the kind of partnership the NAF had enjoyed with its Nigérien counterpart over the years.
He said the visit of the Nigérien Air Force CAS to HQ NAF was yet another strong demonstration of the Niger Republic’s commitment to strengthening the partnership between both countries.
He noted in particular that the story of the successes recorded in the COIN Operations in the Northeast of Nigeria would not be complete without mentioning how the partnership between the 2 air forces has contributed significantly to the gains made in the Northeast and other theatres of conflict.
Speaking on the winging of new pilots, the CAS highlighted that several NAF personnel had been trained in various specialties, with many others currently undergoing training both within and outside the country.
He also noted that, from July 2015 to date, the NAF has winged 124 pilots comprising 76 pilots who completed their training in foreign institutions and 48 who had trained in local institutions.
He further disclosed that with today’s winging of 7 pilots, the total number of pilots trained by the current Nigerian Air Force administration is now 131, which constitutes 49.6 per cent of the total strength of NAF active pilots. The CAS added that the 7 pilots who completed basic fighter pilot training are a testament of NAF’s deliberate efforts at training fighter pilots to man the fighter platforms in its inventory as well as those expected to be received in the nearest future, consequently, placing the NAF at a dominant position to deliver on its constitutional role, especially at this time when the nation is facing numerous security challenges.
Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar further disclosed that, at present, the NAF has a total of 193 officers and airmen/airwomen undergoing training abroad cutting across several specialties and trades.
“Out of this number”, the CAS said, “2 pilots are currently undergoing Undergraduate Pilot Training with the United States Air Force, while 4 student pilots are in the Czech Republic undergoing Basic Fighter Training on the L-39 aircraft. In the same vein, 4 pilots are undergoing helicopter training at the United States Army Aviation, while another 4 have been processed to join up in the coming days”.
He noted, furthermore, that 9 pilots were in the United Kingdom undergoing Basic Helicopter Pilot Training. The CAS also highlighted that another 9 personnel were in South Africa undergoing Basic Fixed Wing Pilot Training.
According to him, “it is pertinent to highlight that notwithstanding these achievements, the NAF cannot afford to rest on its oars at training her personnel for combat readiness in the face of current security challenges”. Air Marshal Abubakar reminded the young pilots that the feat they had achieved came with responsibility and as such, much would be expected of them.
He further thanked the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, for his consistent commitment to the development of the Armed Forces, particularly the NAF.
In his welcome address the Chief of Policy and Plans (COPP), Air Vice Marshal Mohammed Idris, noted that both countries were currently confronted with common security challenges along a shared border.
According to him. “In response to these threats, the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) was established and our nations collectively play a major role in troops and equipment contribution to the Force. Your visit is therefore timely as it will give both air forces the opportunity to critically deliberate on the security challenges confronting our nations with a view to finding lasting solutions. The Nigerian Air Force is open to partnerships and collaborations that would effectively address these security challenges.”
He further encouraged the visiting CAS to explore all opportunities considered mutually beneficial to both air forces and nations.
While receiving the Nigerien CAS in his office, the Chief of Defence Staff, (CDS) General Abayomi Olonisakin, stated that the visit would reinforce and further consolidate on the existing cooperation between the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) and Nigerien Armed Forces. The CDS noted that the visit would open up more areas of cooperation especially, training between the NAF and Nigerien Air Force. General Olonisakin further stated that the AFN and MNJTF have been working together to ensure that peace is restored in the Lake Chad Basin area.