With Continuing US Embargo, Nigeria Looks to Russia, Pakistan, Others for Arms

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  •  NAF to add 10 attack aircraft to inventory

Senator Iroegbu in Abuja

The federal government has responded to the arms embargo imposed on Nigeria by the United States of America, turning to countries in the Eastern and Southern hemisphere, including Russia, Pakistan and Brazil, to acquire arms and military arsenal for the counter-terrorism operations in the North-eastern part of the country.

According to the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, who spoke in Abuja yesterday, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has been given approval to acquire and induct at least 10 attack aircraft into its arsenal.

Speaking at the NAF’s operations seminar tagged: “Developing Effective Air Power Responses to National Security Challenges in Nigeria,” Abubakar gave the breakdown of the expected aircraft to include four Mi-35m attack helicopters from Russia, three Super Tucano from Brazil and three JF-17 Thunder from Pakistan.

In addition, he said, another 10 Super Mus hack primary trainer from Pakistan would also be inducted into the NAF service.

Abubakar said the U.S. arms embargo would not stop the countries Nigeria intends to buy the military hardware from, especially Brazil from selling the A-29 Super Tucano fighter aircraft to it like America did with Israel in 2014.

He added that despite the arms embargo, the U.S. had in recent times shown willingness to assist in the country’s counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency efforts in the North-east.

“All I can tell you is that the U.S. is supporting in the North-east, they are helping us with a lot of intelligence, so I don’t see any reason why we should have difficulties,” he insisted.

The air force chief, however, said that NAF was not resting on its oars to make the service more self-reliant and had in-line with its leadership vision, reactivated about 13 aircraft that were hitherto grounded for years due to lack of maintenance and questionable flying status.

“These aircraft include three Mi-24V/35P, two EC-135, one Beechcraft, one falcon, one Super Puma, one DA-42, two DO-228 and two A-109LUHs,” he said.

Against this backdrop, Abubakar said the NAF had in response to its expanded role in the ongoing war against terror, trained over 700 personnel comprising of 40 pilots outside and 27 pilots within the country.

In the same vein, he said the service had increased its platforms and increased recruitment into the service from 500 to 2,500, as well as approved the creation of four regiment groups under the newly created Special Operations Command, which would soon take off in Gusau, Owerri, Bauchi and Ipetu Ijesha.

Abubakar said the service trained 325 Special Forces in anti-hijacking, counter terrorism and Very Important Personality (VIP) protection with some already deployed in the North-east operation.

The air force chief also used the occasion to induct the newly created NAF K9 Dod Unit into the service.

“I want to say that getting the equipment on the detection of bombs and training of people on their use was quite expensive, which made it less cheap for the acquisition of locally bred dogs that are trained on bomb detection,” he said.

The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Abayomi Olonisakin, who was the guest of honour at the occasion, urged participants at the seminar to think up solutions to the emerging security challenges in the country.

Olonisakin, who was represented by the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, also commended the NAF for the idea that birthed the seminar.

According to him, the theme and topic of discussion for the seminar, were reflection of NAF’s growing active roles in the war against terror.