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DEFENCE

NAF Inducts Helicopter Reactivated Locally in Port Harcourt

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 By Gom Mirian Abuja 

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has inducted into service another EC-135 Helicopter, NAF 549, which was reactivated in-country by NAF personnel in collaboration with some technical partners from within and outside Nigeria.

The induction of NAF 549 on Saturday, 24th August 2019, at the NAF 115 Special Operations Group (115 SOG) in Port Harcourt signifies the substantial progress the Service has made in its bid to continually build capacity to cope with technological advancements in the field of military aviation and further prosecute the various ongoing operations in the Country.

It could be recalled that the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, was in Port Harcourt in 2018 to unveil an Mi-35P helicopter, NAF 531, after an in-country Life Extension Programme, which was successfully conducted in Nigeria for the first time since the helicopter was inducted into the NAF in Year 2000.


 
In his remarks during the ceremony, the CAS noted that the addition of the newly re-activated EC-135 helicopter would be a force multiplier in the effort of the Service to secure the lives and property of Nigerians as well as protect the territorial integrity of the Country.

He added that the successful in-country reactivation of the helicopter has enabled the NAF to save scarce foreign exchange that would have been expended in carrying out the Periodic Depot Maintenance (PDM) abroad.

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In addition, Air Marshal Abubakar explained that the in-country reactivation has enabled the transfer of required skills and expertise to NAF technicians, thereby helping the Service build additional capacity to sustain its operations.

According to him, “this is in line with the Service’s projected end state, which is to ensure that in the near future, the NAF would have sufficiently domiciled the technical expertise and technological know-how to conduct the full spectrum of maintenance activities locally using its own engineers, technicians and resources”.
 
Speaking further, the CAS added that in order to ensure adequate manning and capacity building for crew of its various helicopter fleets, the Service was conducting various initial and advanced training for NAF helicopter pilots both locally and overseas.

He stated that the Service recently approved the training of 10 helicopter pilots by Cobham Helicopter in the United Kingdom.

“We have also commenced the tactical training of NAF helicopter pilots at the 405 Helicopter Combat Training Group (405 HCTG) Enugu in order to build their capacity to function more effectively in complex air and ground environments.

All these efforts are being made to enable the NAF build its core competencies towards the employment of air power in the discharge of our constitutional responsibilities”, he added.
 
Air Marshal Abubakar restated his commitment to enhancing the welfare of personnel through the provision of conducive work and home environments for personnel and their families to enable them continue to put in their best in support of the various Internal Security operations across the Country.

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This, he said, would include the provision of additional married accommodation for Officers and Senior Non Commissioned Officers (SNCOs) in Port Harcourt as well as the eventual upgrade of Air Force Secondary School Port Harcourt to a boarding school.

The CAS also used the opportunity to express the profound gratitude of the Service to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, for the priority given to NAF’s efforts in maintaining its platforms and equipment as well as the support given to acquire new platforms such as the A-29 Super Tucano, JF-17 fighter aircraft, Mi-35M, Augusta A-109 Power and AW-139 helicopters.
 
Earlier, while delivering his welcome address, the Air Officer Commanding Tactical Air Command (AOC TAC), Air Vice Marshal Charles Owho, represented by the Chief of Staff, Air Commodore Shehu Bakari, expressed his delight for the enabling environment the current leadership of the NAF has granted the Command to display its ingenuity towards the achievement of the landmark feat.

He added that the reactivation would no doubt contribute to the actualization of one of the key drivers of the CAS’ Vision, which is, “robust logistics support and maintenance culture to sustain platforms and equipment serviceability”.
 
The reactivation programme of NAF 549, which had been unserviceable since June 2013 before its handover to the NAF in 2016, commenced on 10 January 18, with critical assessment of the helicopter, and the entire work was completed in June 2019.

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The helicopter is one of the three EC -135 helicopters inherited by the NAF from the NNPC.

The other 2 EC 135 Helicopters, NAF 547 and NAF 548, have been reactivated in-Country and have since been deployed for operations.

Highlight of the event was the conduct of a Functional Check Flight (FCF) by pilots of the 115 SOG, under the guidance of the Commander, Air Commodore Elijah Ebiowe, to certify the aircraft ready for flight operations.

After which the technical documents for the aircraft were handed over to the CAS by the Chief of Aircraft Engineering CAcE, AVM Musa Mukhtar, who subsequently handed these over to the AOC TAC for safekeeping.

Also present at the induction ceremony were the Commander Operation Delta Safe, Rear Admiral A Akinrinade, as well as other serving and retired military officers and heads of other security agencies in Rivers State.
 
Before leaving Port Harcourt, the CAS, who was accompanied on the operational visit by other senior officers from Headquarters NAF, also had an interactive session with officers, airmen and airwomen of NAF units in Port Harcourt and other locations in the South South Geo-Political Zone.

The session was aimed at keeping the personnel informed about the policy directions of the Service while also receiving feedback as well as suggestions from them on how to move the Service forward for effective and efficient service delivery

COVER

Army Launches Operations Against Oil Thieves

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From Tayese Mike, Yenagoa

The Nigerian Army in Bayelsa State at the weekend launched a raid on the camps of suspected oil thieves and Militants at Igbomotoro and Azuzuama communities of Southern Ijaw Local Government area of the state.

It was gathered that the raid, which was conducted by men of 5 Battalion of the Nigerian Army, also combed the crude oil pipeline route along the Obama flow station, Kolo creeks and Brass areas of the State.

While a senior military sources said that the operation was also targeted at tackling the operations of some known militants involved in setting up illegal bunkering camps in communities of Southern Ijaw and some other illegal activities.

Another claimed the operation was targeted at arresting a known militant leader over his alleged shady activities, but he escaped with his boys through the creeks when he was alerted about the impending military raid.

It was also however gathered that the shrine allegedly being used to administer oaths on youths during recruitment into the illegal bunkering activities by the suspected militant leader was destroyed and many other items including Military Camouflage, Mobile phones and military boots were seized.

Indigenes of the Igbomotoro community however cried out over alleged military occupation of the area thereby causing panic and desertion by indigenes over fear of indiscriminate arrest.

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An Indigene of Igbomotoro, who pleaded anonymity, however told Daily Asset on Sunday that the area is calm as the military men have retreated from the community as at Sunday morning,” the situation is calm now. We are peace loving community and would not want soldiers to occupy our area.”

Attempts to get the spokesman of the 16 Brigade of the Nigerian Army and the Joint Military Task Force to speak on the development proved abortive as no one showed signs of denying or confirming the development.

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DEFENCE

Troops Nab Alleged Gunrunner, Seven Rail Track Vandals in Taraba, Benue

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By Gom Mirian, Abuja

The Military High Command said its troops of Operation whirl stroke have arrested a notorious gun runner, one Mr. Ardo Manu Abdulrahaman Maranewo who has been on the security wanted list while seven rail tracks vandals were arrested in Taraba, Benue States.

Director, Defence Media Operations, Major General Bernard Onyeuko, who disclosed this in a statement yesterday in Abuja, said Abdulrahaman is specialized in selling and leasing arms and ammunition to bandits and kidnappers in Taraba State.

“Troops on patrol in Udei general along Udei -Makurdi-Lafiya road arrested 7 rail track vandals namely; Tersoo John (40yrs), Donald Kperuv (30yrs), Abraham Tinde (25yrs), Jamilu Danlami (20yrs), James Yandela (29yrs), Idris Usman Imam (32yrs) and Abubakar Adamu (30yrs).

Onyeuko said that the rail track vandals were arrested with a trailer (ABJ KWALI 846XB) loaded with cut to size vandalised railway tracks and sleepers.

He in another development, said the troops have on June 21, also raided a kidnappers enclave at Maraba in Ukyonugu Ityuluv Ward in Ukum Local Government Area of Benue State and arrested a bandits collaborator one Mr. Ichen Igbaka, a 65- year-old and his wife Mrs. Salomi Gbaka.

“Their house as a hideout for kidnapped for late bandit leader Mr Azu,” he said, adding that the suspects and items recovered are in custody for further interrogation.

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Meanwhile, in the North West he said “On 21 Jun 2022 troops of FOB Bakura Operation HADARIN DAJI responded to distress call of terrorists’ activities at Rafin Dankura in Bakura LGA of Zamfara State engaged the terrorists in a shootout after abducting innocent civilians.

“After the encounter troops rescued the six (6) kidnapped civilians and neutralised 2 bandits in the process.

“Similarly, on 21 June 2022 in response to a distress call on terrorists activities made contacts with marauding terrorists at Maigora in Faskari LGA of Katsina State and neutralized 2 terrorists in the process.

“Items recovered includes 2 AK 47, 1x 36 hand grenade, 2 x cell phones and the sum two hundred and eleven thousand, nine hundred and fifteen naira (211,915.00),” he disclosed.

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CRIME

Don’t Resume Train Service until AK-9 Victims are Rescued, Family Members Charge NRC

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42 days after terrorists attacked the AK-9 train along the Abuja-Kaduna rail route, families of the over 100 persons still in captivity have urged the Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC, not to resume services on the corridor until all those held captive are safely rescued.

Addressing a press conference, Monday, in Abuja, the families lamented the horrible conditions the abducted passengers have been forced to live in, even as they took a swipe at the manner the Federal Ministry of Transportation and the NRC have so far handled the matter.

Representatives of the families, Abfulfatai Jimoh and Ba’abba Muhammad said it would be insensitive for NRC to resume operations on the route with fate of scores of passengers kidnapped still unknown.

“Abuja-Kaduna train service should not resume until the quick and safe rescue of our family members held hostage and adequate security measures are put in place to guarantee the safety of prospective passengers.

This position aligns with the prayers of the majority of Nigerians,” they said.

According to them, “it has been 42 long days of living in fear, virtually no sleep, no bath, wearing the same clothes, under the scorching sun and rain, and exposed to extreme environmental hazards.

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“The emotional, psychological, mental, and physical torture arising from these conditions are only imaginable.

“Among the abducted passengers are children- some as young as three years old, pregnant women, women including an 85-year-old great grandmother, and others. Some of these victims have health challenges requiring daily medications, which they have had no access to in the last 42 harrowing days.”

In an emotionally-laden voice, Jimoh added that the story of one of the victims giving birth in the forest is difficult to accept in a sane society.

“We read in the news that one of the two pregnant women in captivity delivered her baby in the forest.

“Giving birth is supposed to be a moment of joy; how would it have been if this woman delivered her baby in the comfort of a maternity ward? In whose hands? What is the place of birth of this baby, the forest? While some families have their breadwinners in captivity, others have their wives, mothers, sisters, brothers, uncles, and aunts held down in the bush.

“This hostage-taking has drastically disrupted the living conditions of affected families. Children are crying everyday, with the only question in their mouths being: When are my Mummy and Daddy coming home? What a miserable state!

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“Since this unfortunate attack on the Abuja-Kaduna bound train, we believe the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, alongside his security and intelligence chiefs, have been working to rescue our loved ones. We have been given assurances that a positive outcome of these efforts would be apparent soon.

“We must, however, register our displeasure with the way and manner the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi has been handling this tragic event since it occurred. Just a few days after 28th March, Mr. Amaechi was seen running around the Stadium in Port Harcourt where he declared his intention to become the next President of Nigeria.

“We had expected Mr. Amaechi to be running around as to how to get his abducted passengers rescued, and this is highly disappointing. Mr. President also directed the Management of NRC to establish a Situation Room to give a minute by minute account of rescue efforts to relatives of kidnapped passengers.

“Still, one week after this Presidential directive was issued, NRC has neither contacted the relatives of kidnapped victims nor established any Situation Room as directed by the President. This display of gross incompetence and insensitivity should lead to the appropriate punishment.

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“Furthermore, we sought the intervention of the leadership of the National Assembly, which is the people’s court, but nothing has been forthcoming from them.

“We want to extend our profound gratitude to Nigerians, elder statesmen, traditional, religious, and community leaders, and the Nigerian media who have lent their strong voices to this struggle both in the open and behind the scene and their prayers for divine intervention. We still need this vital support until success is achieved,” they said.

Fielding questions from journalists, Hidayiat Yusuf, spokesperson for the families slammed the NRC for contemplating resumption of operations on the route, saying “if there was security in place, our loved ones would not have been kidnapped.

“We are ready to negotiate with the terrorists if they are willing. If it is money they want, they should come forward and say so,” she added.

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