President Muhammadu Buhari has inducted newly acquired Augusta 109P helicopter gunships and MI-171E helicopter into the inventory of the Nigeria Air Force (NAF).
Speaking at the induction ceremony on Thursday in Abuja, Buhari noted that the new helicopters would add to the combat efficiency of NAF contemporary security engagement.
According to him, “Just about a year ago, we commissioned 2 Agusta 109 Power helicopter gunships which were procured from Italy and inducted into the Nigerian Air Force inventory to boost the operational capacity of the Nigerian Air Force.”
He said the helicopters will deliver robust air power in the support of counter insurgency efforts, saying, “It is on record that these additional platforms have contributed immensely to Nigerian Air Force’s success and decimation of the Boko Haram insurgents.
“The Nigerian Air Force since its establishment in 1964, has been playing critical roles in national security as well as in peace-keeping operations on the African continent.
“Her contributions in internal security, peace keeping and humanitarian operations in places like The Gambia, Guinea Conakry, Mozambique, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Guinea Bissau and Cameroon have not only been a source of pride to us as a nation, but has also projected us as a reliable regional power.”
He however commended the NAF and other services for their unique role in the counter insurgency operations in the North East and the North West, rating their performances gallantly.
In his welcome address, Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar said the two Agusta 109P and MI-171E helicopters will be employed judiciously in the fight against banditry, insurgency and terrorism.
According to him, “This fight against insurgency and terrorism couldn’t have been possible without the provision of modern war platforms and equipment sophisticated enough to guarantee the safety of the communities where these asymmetric wars are perpetrated.
“Since the acquisition of the recently inducted Mi-35M helicopters, the inherent flexibility and versatility displayed by these machines have ensured greater achievements in the fight against insurgency/terrorism and other vices in the country.
“It has also ensured speedy provision of support to other sister Services involved in the prosecution of the fight against insurgency, terrorism, cattle rustling, kidnapping and banditry.”
Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi, commended President Buhari for prioritizing national security and re-equipping the armed forces to enhance operational effectiveness.
“We are indeed grateful to Mr. President for his continued support to the armed forces of Nigeria. You may recall that barely a year ago, the president inducted 2 Augusta 109 power helicopters into the NAF inventory to give impetus to our national counter terrorism and counter insurgency effort and feedback indicate that these aircraft hare making a difference in the theatre of operation,” he said.