By Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu
To effectively prosecute the ongoing battle against Boko Haram insurgents in the North East geo-political zone, the Nigerian Air Force yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company, an indigenous car manufacturing company for research and production of spare parts for its fighter jets.
The efforts is to ensure that aerial battle against the Islamic fundamentalists were not encumbered as a result of lack of spare parts to fix fighter jets and also use the opportunity to encourage local manufacturers.
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, told newsmen at the company’s headquarters at Nnewi, Anambra that the collaboration between the company and the Air Force had kept its Jet fleet running for months now.
Abubakar, who was represented by the Chief Of Policy and Plans, Air Vice-Marshal James Gbum, said that the MoU would further solidify the collaboration, improve local content and engineering as well as serve the country a lot of foreign exchange used in importing the expensive parts.
“Our war efforts will be in vain if we don’t do something to ensure we get spare parts because, the Alpha Jets for instance one of our fighter aircraft; that have formed the back-bone of our struggle against Boko Haram, we were (once) down with one or two at most due to lack of spare parts and mainly the break assemblies of these aircrafts.
“The Chief of Air Staff (Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar) immediately ordered our research and development cell in Kaji to start to research into this break assembly overhaul; they went ahead, carried out the research, (however) the first proto-type they brought couldn’t pass the test. The Nigerian Air Force later discovered that Innoson Vehicle Maintenance Company at Nnewi is capable of doing it and that they are very capable of collaborating with the Nigerian Air Force to achieve the required standards of overhauling our break assemblies.
“The company was invited to headquarters Nigerian Air Force for discussion and thereafter went into research and development collaboration with the Nigerian Air Force and the result was successful. To this effect, we have reasonable number of these Alpha Jets serviceable daily to fight the war in the North East.
“So, today we are as representative of the Chief of Air Staff are here officially to sign a Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with Innoson Vehicle Maintenance Company. The Nigerian Air Force considers this co-operation with the ingenious company as very very important in producing some of the spare parts locally.
“This is in-line with the change agenda of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) and it is also in-line with the vision and key-drivers of the Chief of Air Staff,’’ he said.
Earlier, the Chief Executive Officer of the company, Chief Innocent Chukwuma, said that the company had the human, material and machinery capacity to sustain the collaboration.
“When they (Nigerian Air Force) came to me, I developed it the way they want it and they are happy with it and there is why they are here. It (MoU) is something that would move Nigeria forward because we can’t base on always importing items; so anything we can do here possible, we do it for them. The important thing is that if things are moving very well, every Nigerian will see that it is better to patronise anything made in Nigeria,’’ Chukwuma said
Earlier, in a courtesy call of the Nigerian Air Force team to the governor of Anambra at Government House, Awka; Gov. Willie Obiano said that company had been a veritable tool for technical and engineering advance of the state.
“This great initiative of yours to partner with Innoson Motors in helping you to get some spare parts to service, I believe it won’t be only aircraft as times goes on you be able to buy the four-wheel that would replace the Hilux (Jeep) that is imported.
“The beauty about Innoson is that they always have the parts and is a phone call away. I am confident that his been able to get this big deal.
As we speak we have 500 youths who are doing auto-mobile engineering, doing practical in his factory at Nnewi. And it has been a great, great motivation and innovation. And I must commend you (Air Force) for the decisive blow you’ve given to Boko Haram.
“At some point, they were looking invincible but since this administration came you guys showed no non-sense and went after it the way should be done and today, we have recovered virtually all the lands they have taken and all that is left is a mop-up operation,’’ Obiano said.