By Segun Awofadeji in Bauchi
President Muhammadu Buhari has said that the establishment of the special operation command of the Nigerian Air Force in Bauchi is in response to the current and emerging security threat facing the country.
Buhari, who spoke Thursday in Bauchi while commissioning the 261 Nigerian Air Force Reference Hospital, Bauchi stated that the special command which is co-located with the new hospital confirms his administration’s collective commitment to tackle any threat to the security of the country.
According to him, “The air force remains a key component of the armed forces in its constitutional role of providing aid to civil authorities across the country. These efforts include surveillance, security, airports, emergency assistance and resettlement of displaced people.
“These laudable efforts will continue in the interest of the country as it is our strategic goals to widen civil -military relationship.”
The president said that he was delighted that the hospital, though a military facility, will give access to civilians in an emergency, and acknowledged that the hospital is of international standard.
Buhari said: “A counter insurgency efforts are bound to be enhanced by the location of the hospital because of its proximity to the theatre of operation,” adding that it will reduce the hitherto long distance to 44 Nigerian Army Reference hospital and Nigeria Air Force Hospital, Kaduna for casualties thus, saving time for casualty evacuation.
He therefore urged the Nigerian Air Force to put adequate mechanism in place to ensure an enduring and optimal performance of the hospital, adding that it will eventually serve as a precursor to the resets of the Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) as envisage in defence policy of Nigeria.
Speaking earlier, the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Abubakar Sadiq, appreciated the president for the support that the Nigerian Air Force has enjoiyed under his administration saying: “It has undoubtedly position the service to effectively discharge its statutory responsibilities as provided in the constitution.
Sadiq said the effect of the president’s support has manifested in the various theatres of operations especially in the geopolitical zones of the country.
“In the North-east alone, the NAF has flown 14.803 flying hours 29 minutes providing close air support, logistic resupply, combat recce/patrols, battle interdiction and ISR roles to create the enabling environment for our grand troops to undertake their operations with little or no hindrance,” he said.
The air force chief said the commissioning ceremony of NAF reference hospital Bauchi by the president is another giant stride of the service under the current administration.
He said though the hospital was established to provide care for the personnel of NAF and indeed the armed forces, its services have been extended to the host community as it has been the tradition of NAF, adding that it will enhance the cordial relationship that exists between NAF and the host community.
Sadiq said that NAF embarked on a deliberate upgrade of its medical facility through the enhancement of existing infrastructure, provision of modern equipment, training of existing staff and recruitment of appropriate professionals to bridge the manpower deficiency in our health care facilities.
According to him, “So far, the NAF has provided medical care to over 233,720 Internally Displaced Persons through regular medical outreach programmes in Borno and Adamawa States as well as the FCT.
“Additionally, the NAF has established emergency field hospital Dalori and Bama IDP camps and upgraded the state clinic in Maikohi IDP camp in Yola. In the same vein, the NAF has also organised series of surgical programmes in which over 1.871 IDPs with eye and other surgical problems were operated and treated free of charge.”
He therefore appreciated the Bauchi State Governor Mohammed Abubakar and the people of the state for their invaluable support to the Nigerian Air Force and for alocating the huge percel of land where NAF Special Command and three units of brigand statue are currently located.