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Nigerian Air Force Aims to Rank Third in Africa in Equipment Capacity, Says AVM Gabkwet

Air Vice Marshal Gabkwet recounts the Nigerian Air Force’s evolution, celebrating its achievements and addressing current challenges in combating insurgency.

During an interview with ARISE NEWS on Wednesday, Air Vice Marshal Edward Gabkwet, spokesperson of the Nigerian Air Force, highlighted the Air Force’s  potential, projecting that it aims to be third in Africa by next year in terms of equipment, while reflecting on the 60 years of remarkable changes since its establishment.

Gabkwet stated that in sixty years from now, or even less the Air Force would project air power beyond Nigeria.

Gabkwet remarked, “Sixty years from now, or even less, we envisioned an Air Force that could project air power beyond Nigeria, securing our national security and protecting mankind.”

 He stated that, It has been 60 years of remarkable changes right from when the Act of Parliament established us in 1964. The German Air Force assistant group came in to assist us with training aircraft but had to leave quickly after the civil war set in.

 Barely three years after its formation, the Air Force was thrust into the civil war, performing admirably as part of the Nigerian military apparatus. Gabkwet noted, “In the 80s, we had what we called the golden years of the Nigerian Air Force, where civilian rule invested heavily in the service. 

However, the subsequent military rule brought downturns, sanctions, and difficulties in sourcing spare parts. Fortunately, the Air Force revived with the return of civilian rule, leading to its current balanced state, capable of proving its worth globally.

“The golden age of the 1980s, which included participation in the war in Liberia, remained a point of pride for the Air Force. Today, it projected air power and served as a coercive force against tyrants resisting democratic transitions,” Gabkwet stated.

 He further elaborated, “The challenges we faced were not different from any Air Force. Unfortunately, we were fighting a war within our country against our own people, facing an insurgency that was inbuilt and difficult to tackle.”

The 60th anniversary of the Nigerian Air Force marked a significant milestone, as it partnered with private entities and aviation-related partners to celebrate and exhibit products during the anniversary. At the International Conference Centre, over 300 non-Nigerians, 30 exhibitors, and 40 different Air Forces participated. Gabkwet emphasised that the exhibits showcased products related to military and civil aviation, aiming to attract investors to the aviation industry in Nigeria.

He highlighted the operational impact of acquiring 48 new aircraft, stating, “This was a large country with many ungovernable spaces. More aircraft in the skies meant wider reach and better control over criminal activities.”

Addressing accidental airstrikes, Gabkwet explained that no Air Force or military intentionally harmed its own citizens. “In the past year, under the current Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, no accidental strikes occurred due to enhanced safety measures. After an incident in 2023 in Nasarawa State, a committee reviewed the strike, leading to an apology and outreach to the victims’ families.

 “The Nigerian Air Force remains the key enabler in the fight against criminalities in this country,” he stated. “We worked together with the Nigerian Army and other services to checkmate criminal activities.”

Gabkwet praised the efforts of the armed forces, despite challenges, and assured Nigerians that the current situations would eventually improve. Reflecting on the Banex Plaza incident, he expressed gratitude for the public’s condemnation of civilian acts against uniformed personnel.

With a serviceability status of over 75%, the Air Force remained vigilant across the country. Gabkwet also focused on welfare and mental health, noting the new insurance policy that benefited all personnel. Additionally, the Air Force was acquiring land to develop housing for soldiers and their families, emphasising the importance of the Air Force family.

“Every Nigerian should be proud of the 60th anniversary of the Air Force that has protected the citizens’ image,” Gabkwet concluded.

Air Marshal Gabkwet highlighted the evolution, challenges, and future aspirations of the Nigerian Air Force, reflecting on its significant contributions over the past six decades.

Nneoma Udensi 

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