By Kingsley Nwezeh
The military said weekend it would deploy special mission aircraft to Benin, Edo State capital, as part of the federal government’s integrated national security and waterways’ protection infrastructure.
It said the deployment was aimed at comprehensively tackling insecurity in Nigeria’s territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) up to the Gulf of Guinea (GoG).
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar made the disclosure weekend during an operational visit to the 107 Air Maritime Group (AMG) to inspect facilities and infrastructure preparatory to the deployment of special mission aircraft.
He said the ATR-42 aircraft, which operates from Benin, had flown combat support missions all over the country, including Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Niger states, among others.
The NAF boss commended personnel of the 107 Air Maritime Group (107 AMG) Benin for their contributions in the efforts of the Nigerian Air Force to ensure a secured Nigeria.
While making the commendation, the CAS also reiterated that the NAF, working in synergy with other arms of the military and security agencies, would continue to work round the clock to ensure that Nigerians in every part of the country would be able to pursue their legitimate aspirations without fear.
“As I speak to you now, the ATR-42 aircraft, NAF 930, is currently conducting missions in the North-east of the country.
“So, clearly your unit is contributing significantly to what we are doing to ensure that our country is secured and our people can pursue their legitimate aspirations without fear”, he said.
Speaking further, Abubakar said the purpose of his visit was to assess facilities and infrastructure for the imminent deployment of additional air assets to Benin by the federal government.
“We are here to look at the infrastructure available and also identify gaps. The hangar facility is adequate. However, there will be need for aircraft shelters and some ground support equipment in order to make the deployment possible”, he added.
He further noted that more pilots, engineers and technicians, whom he said had already been nominated for conversion training on the new aircraft as well as force protection elements, comprising NAF special forces personnel, would also be deployed to Benin.
He observed that additional office and residential accommodation would therefore be required.
“Like I said, we have looked at all the infrastructure available including office and residential accommodation, and we know that there are gaps. We will try to ensure that these gaps are bridged before the special mission aircraft will be deployed here,” he said.
He urged them to be prepared to provide the same kind of support to the special mission aircraft when it arrives noting that the aircraft would undoubtedly add value to the security arrangements in Nigeria’s maritime environment.