Udora Orizu in Abuja
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, yesterday said that the Tucano fighter jets ordered by the federal government from the United States in 2019, will arrive the country in the second quarter of 2021.
Abubakar, disclosed this when he appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Air Force, to defend the 2021 budget proposal of the service.
He said the force will also acquire eight unmanned Aerial Vehicles from China and three and 3 JF17 thunder fighter aircraft from Pakistan in 2021.
The Air Chief told the lawmakers that the Air Force had acquired 22 aircrafts, in recent times, and was expecting 17 more, in addition to the three special mission aircrafts, it was expecting under the Deep Blue project of the Federal Ministry of Transportation.
He, however, lamented that the N8.8 billion proposed for the overhead cost of the Air Force in the 2021 fiscal year was grossly inadequate, owing to the new platforms it had acquired, as well as new units that were set-up recently.
According to him, ‘’the overhead cost of the service had remained constant at N8.8 billion despite the increased in the number of personnel and formations.
“We have acquired additional infrastructure, but inspite of that, not much has changed in terms of the overhead. We have increased by about 11 units. These are located in Agatu in Benue State, Gembi in Taraba State, Damaturu in Yobe State, in Ikiran in Osun State, we are expanding the unit in Ipetu Ijesha. We have also established an FOB in Birnin Gwari, Kaduna State.
‘’The running cost of these units is something that is weighing heavily on the Air Force. That is why we are appealing for increase in the overhead cost. In terms of personnel, the Air Force has grown to over 11,000 personnel and right now, we are recruiting an additional 1000. So, it is huge in terms of the infrastructure.
For the platforms we have created, we have acquired 22 aircrafts and we are expecting 17 more. In addition, we are expecting to get three special mission aircrafts under the deep blue project of the Federal Ministry of Transportation.
‘’I have intimated you of the eight UAVs we are expecting we are expecting from China. With these number of platforms, the number of personnel we have increased and the expansion of the units, definitely the current overhead will be inadequate. The 2021 budget proposal is tailored towards acquiring more platforms and maintaining existing platforms. The NAF intends to intensify its procurement of spare parts, as well as arms and ammunition. Emphasis will also be placed on ongoing infrastructural development in newly established bases such as Gombe and existing NAF buildings to cater for the welfare of personnel and their families.’’
Giving a breakdown of the proposed capital expenditure, Abubakar said, ‘’we have the three JF17 thunder fighter aircraft that the Air Force is acquiring from Pakistan and we are proposing about N17.3 billion for this, while the procurement of targeting bolts for the JF17 thunder aircraft will gulp N3.7 billion. We have up to N2.5 billion for barrack upgrade because the Super Tocano aircraft is coming to Kainji and the runway there is not in shape. We don’t want to go for contract because the cost of doing that runway will be too much and I am sure that the government will not have the resources to do it.’’