•As Reps probe Nigerian Air Force behind closed doors
By Christiana Ekpa
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabimaila has regretted the incessant military air crashes in the country, describing it as frightening.
The Speaker who disclosed this at the opening ceremony of an investigative hearing of the House Committee on Air Force on “Incessant Non-Combatant Related Air Crashes by the Nigerian Air Force” at the National Assembly complex in Abuja on Monday said the number of air crashed between 2015 and 2019 at conservatively 8.
Recent checks indicated that the Nigerian Airforce had recorded at least 8 air mishaps between 2015 and now.
For instance, on 29th of August 2015, Nigeria Air Force Dornier 228 crashed in Kaduna. Similarly, on the 10th of October 10, 2015, the F-7Nl crashed with one (1) casualty, while on the 15th November 2016 In Makurdi, Augusta Westland 101 Helicopter crashed.
Also, on the 2nd of January 2019 in Damasak, Borno state, the Nigeria Air force (NAF) Ml-35M Helicopter crashed with 5 casualties, and on the 12th June 2019, another Nigeria Air Force Helicopter crashed in Katsina Airport with one (1) instructor pilot casualty.
On the 17th August 2019, Nigeria Air Force Air Beetle Aircraft crashed in Kaduna, and recently on the November 14, 2019, the Nigeria Air Force Helicopter crashed in Enugu.
While commending the Nigerian Air Force for being at the vanguard of the country’s airspace and security, Gbajabimaila said that the investigation was necessary to determine the cause and proffer solutions to the crashes.
He said: “The Nigerian Airforce plays an important role in our national security architecture. The Officers and men of the Airforce provide air support for ground forces, transport materials and men, conduct recognizance mission to gather intelligence to support the security operations anywhere.
“They protect our skies through peace and conflict, often paying the ultimate price in the service of our father land. We have an obligation to support the airforce, provide them the resources they need for training and equipment and to ensure that the welfare of the men who wear the uniform.
“We are also required to ensure that the airforce and all men of the armed forces conduct their affairs with the highest integrity and fidelity to the mandate of military good conduct. Our gathering here today is in furtherance of that obligation. Between 2015 and 2019, we have recorded at least 8 crashes of airforce 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 have led to the loss of human lives, have endangered property and created panic. It has 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.
“The House of Representatives has resolved to undertake into the immediate and remote causes of these air crashes and recommend ways of preventing future occurrences. 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 have lost their dear lives.
“It falls to the House of Representatives Committee on Airforce to carry out this mandate and do so very quickly so that we can begin to take recommended actions to prevent future occurrences of this unfortunate incidence”.
In his welcome address, the Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Shehu Koko said that the list of crashes was not encouraging.
“The list is not encouraging given the calibre of dynamic leadership in the Nigeria Air Force. We therefore set to find out the problems; Is it funds? Is it capacity or anything extraneous? We are set to find out and proffer lasting solution to stop it for the future of the Military and the safety of our personnel”, he said.
Making his remarks, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall, Sadiq Abubakar commended the Committee, the House of Representatives and Nigerians for taking more than a passing interest in the activities of the Nigerian Air Force.
“I am particularly also delighted that in addition recognising the enormous contributions of the officers and men to the security of Nigerians. Today, you have looked other areas where we are having some drawbacks and you are interested in what is going on. I think that is the tight way to follow.
“I want to therefore appreciate this initiative and I want to also say that for us in the airforce, expensive airplanes to ensure that our people fly safe and in terms of quality of training we have we have best quality of training. In terms of spare parts and other maintenance,we have …2015 when the serviceability of aircraft was only 30 per cent. But today, as at left the office, serviceability status is 70 percent.
“So, personally, the government is doing everything human possible to support us and we are also doing everything human possible to ensure that life is saved. We have an armed forces attitude to safety that is particularly put in place on the issue of safe conduct for pilots and for those that are not pilots.
“As I speak to you, we have a number of instructor pilots and student pilots that are doing a safely flying activity. That is supposed to ensure they have what is required to be safe”, Abubakar said.
Meanwhile, the hearing continued behind closed doors as Journalists were excused by the Committee after the preliminary proceedings.