Adedayo Akinwale ín Abuja
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbaiabimila, has lamented that the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) between 2015 and 2019 recorded eight non-combatant air crashes in various states, which he said endangered lives and property.
The Speaker, who was represented by Acting House Leader, Peter Akpatason, disclosed this yesterday at the public investigative hearing by the House Committee on Air Force on the incessant non-combatant related air crashes by the NAF.
Gbajabiamila added that the green chamber had resolved to investigate the immediate and remote causes of these air crashes and recommend ways of preventing future occurrences.
He noted that the issue of national security challenges being faced presently sent a clear danger to the collective well-being of the nation, saying insecurity could destabilise the very foundation of the nation and equally undermined the effort of the government at growing economy and creating jobs.
Gbajabiamila said NAF plays an important role in the national security architecture, noting that the House has an obligation to support the Air Force by providing adequate resources for training and equipment and ensuring the welfare of the personnel.
“Between 2015 and 2019, we have recorded at least eight crashes of Air Force aircraft in non combat missions. I have actually taken a look at the figures here and the number and the value is quite frightening.
“These crashes had led to the loss of human lives, endangered property and created panic. It had also led to the loss of expensive military equipment at the time when limited resources already limited our ability to provide the equipment our armed forces requires for optimal operations.
“We have also resolved to access the level of financial loss suffered by the country due to these crashes and examine the utility of the insurance coverage in reimbursing the government for losses, compensating the wounded and providing for the families of those who had lost their dear lives,” he said.
Earlier, the Chairman of the House Committee on Air Force, Sheu Koko, said the committee was poised to achieve the desired result through the investigative hearing by unravelling the circumstances surrounding the frequent crashes of NAF aircraft with a view to nipping in the bud such ugly incidences.
He added that on August 29, 2015, Nigeria Air Force Dornier 228 crashed in Kaduna, while on October 10, 2015, the F-7Nl crashed with one casualty, and on November 15, 2016 in Makurdi, Augusta Westland 101 helicopter crashed.
Koko noted that on January 2, 2019 in Damasak, Borno State, NAF Ml-35M helicopter crashed with five casualties, while on June 12, 2019, another NAF helicopter crashed in Katsina Airport with one instructor pilot casualty.
He added that on August 17, 2019, NAF Air Beetle crashed in Kaduna, and recently on November 14, 2019, NAF helicopter crashed in Enugu.
Koko lamented that the list was not encouraging given the calibre of dynamic leadership in the Nigeria Air Force, saying the committee would find out what the problems are: be it funds, capacity or anything extraneous, in order to proffer lasting solution to ensure future safety of the military and its personnel.
On his part, the Chief of Air Staff, AVM Sadique Abubakar, stated categorically that the personnel of NAF have the best quality of training.
“We have made substantial progress from 2015 when the serviceability status of flyable aircrafts was 55 per cent. Today, as at this morning, the serviceability status is 70 per cent. It has always been between 70 and 82 per cent in the last four years. Definitely, the government is doing everything humanly possible to support us,” he said.
Sadique added that the NAF Institute of Safety was particularly put in place to look at the issue of safe conduct of flight for pilots and non-pilot, noting that a number of instructor pilots and student pilots are currently in Czech Republic for training.