•Says air, ground forces massively deployed in Zamfara to rescue abducted students
•Lagbaja: Force’s aviation set up to improve agility, responsiveness, efficacy of ground troops
Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
The federal government, yesterday, approved the acquisition of the initial 12 MD 530F Cayuse Attack Helicopters for the Nigerian Army Aviation, as part of efforts to boost the military’s arsenal in the fight against insurgency,
Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Taoreed Lagbaja, said the procurement was in support of the operationalisation of Nigerian Army Aviation to effectively tackle security challenges bedeviling the country.
This came as Minister of Defence, Badaru Abubakar and the Minister of State for Defence, Bello Matawalle, said air and ground forces were massively deployed within in the state to rescue abducted Zamfara students.
The duo reassured Zamfara citizenry and Nigerians of the progress being made for the quick return of the abducted female students and other victims of Federal University, Gusau.
The defence ministers expressed confidence that the joint security task forces were working discreetly round-the-clock to rescued abducted students.
Badaru, while condemning the act, in a statement by the Ministry of Defence, said the federal government was doing everything possible to secure their release.
He debunked a statement credited to Governor Dauda Lawal of Zamfara State that federal government was negotiating with the Zamfara terrorists to secure the release of the abducted.
The minister debunked the claim and allegation, pointing out that the federal government was working assiduously to ensure that the girls and other abductees return home safely.
The Nigerian Army Headquarters, however, said the acquisition of the new attack helicopters was part of ongoing efforts by the federal government to boost the operational capabilities of the Army Aviation to appropriately respond to contemporary and emerging security threats.
Lagbaja, made the disclosure while declaring open the Nigerian Army Aviation maiden seminar on Aviation Security Awareness at the Army Headquarters Command Officers’ Mess 1, Abuja.
In his remarks at the 3-day seminar themed: “Enhancing the Capacity of the Nigerian Army Aviation towards Achieving Constitutional Responsibilities in a Joint Environment,” the COAS expressed gratitude to the federal government under the leadership of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for buying into the aspiration of the Nigerian Army Aviation and committing itself to making history.
The army chief noted that the Nigerian Army Aviation was being proactive by organising the first Nigerian Army Aviation Seminar, which is in line with his Command Philosophy of “Transforming the Nigerian Army into a Well-trained, Equipped and Highly Motivated Force towards achieving its Constitutional Responsibilities within a Joint Environment.”
He noted that the seminar would serve as a veritable platform to deliberate on critical issues and share invaluable insights regarding the future of the Nigerian Army Aviation.
Lagbaja further revealed that since 2014, the Nigerian Army had made commendable progress in training pilots, aircraft engineers, technicians, and other ground support crews, adding that the Nigerian Army understood the highly technical nature of the aviation business and the need to be appropriately mentored.
This he said informed its international collaborations and submission of its nascent aviation outfit to the mentoring of the Nigerian Air Force, as the service did not have the luxury of making mistakes when it can learn from other experienced aviation outfits.
In his address, the Acting Coordinator, Nigerian Army Aviation, Brigadier General Musa Alkali, stated that the Nigerian Army recognised the pivotal role of aviation in bolstering ground operations and addressing the evolving security challenges confronting the nation.
Highpoint of the opening ceremony was presentation of goodwill messages from the former Deputy Governor of Kebi State and a member of the first generation of army aviation pilots, Colonel Ismaila Yombe (rtd), the immediate past Chief of Defence Staff General Lucky Irabor (rtd) and Representative of the Chairman House Committee on Aviation, Honourable Festus Akingbaso.
Meanwhile, the defence minister extended his heartfelt sympathy to the parents, the academic community, and the entire citizenry of Zamfara State for “the tragic abduction.”
Reacting to the statement credited to Governor Dauda Lawal of Zamfara State that federal government was negotiating with the Zamfara terrorists to secure the release of the abducted, the minister said the allegation was false and misleading as the ministry had not mandated any body or group to negotiate on behalf of federal government.
He explained that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu gave marching orders to the military and other security agencies to ensure the release of those who were abducted.
“The order of Mr. President had started yielding result as 13 of the abducted students and three others regained their freedom just this Monday 25, 2023. This feat was achieved through the professional efforts of the military,” he said.