By Adeyemi Olusoga
Chief of the Air Staff ( CAS) Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar has warned bandits operating in the restive north central and north west zone of Nigeria to immediately surrender and hand over their weapons to the authorities even as the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) through its Air Components of Operations HADARIN DAJI (OPHD), THUNDER STRIKE (OPTS) and GAMA AIKI (OPGA), killed 369 bandits in a five-month operation.
Speaking during an operational visit to the North Central and North West operational centres, the CAS urged the bandits to immediately “forsake their criminal ways, surrender and turn in their weapons to relevant authorities.”
The Air Force Chief who was accompanied on the visit by Branch Chiefs and Directors from the NAF headquarters said the NAF will not give the bandits any breathing space but will sustain the tempo of operations by locating all remaining bandit’s camp and neutralising the criminal wherever they may be found. He expressed the readiness of the NAF to continue to ensure the availability of attack and surveillance aircraft as well as helicopter gunships along with necessary logistics support at the various airfields as well as the new helipads at Katari, along the Kaduna -Abuja Highway, and Birnin Gwari in Kaduna State.
Speaking after the briefing at the OPHD Air Component Headquarters (HQ) in Katsina, the CAS commended the AOC SOC as well as the various Air Component Commanders and personnel of the 3 Operations for their commitment towards securing the lives and properties of people in the affected areas. He noted that it was no mean feat to plan and execute coordinated air operations covering 7 States, with the huge logistics requirements involved, to support the ground forces in the 3 Defence Headquarters (DHQ)-led Operations. He equally expressed excitement that the over 500-strong NAF Special Forces (SF) personnel were also adding value to ground operations, fighting alongside their Nigerian Army and Police counterparts to deny the bandits freedom of action.
Meanwhile, the Air Officer Commanding Special Operations Command (AOC SOC) Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Charles Ohwo, while briefing the CAS during the CAS’ Operational Visit to NAF Units and Formations involved in anti-banditry operations in Katsina and Zamfara States said 1,400 operational hours had been devoted to the accomplishment of 848 Air Interdiction (AI); Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR); Battle Damage Assessment (BDA); Close Air Support as well as Tactical Airlift missions.
These were executed in 1,089 sorties with about 637,206 litres of Jet A-1 fuel expended from 1 January 2020 till date. He revealed that the Air Components of the three Operations had continued to shape the battlespace to create the enabling environment for the Land Components to operate more effectively towards the total defeat of the armed bandits in order to bring peace to the troubled areas.
While in Katsina, the CAS also held a private meeting with the Emir of Katsina, Alhaji (Dr) Abdulmumin Kabiru Usman, where matters related to the anti-banditry operations were discussed and assurances of mutual support in terms of provision of intelligence, on one hand, and prompt, decisive action, on the other, were given. Before departing Katsina for Gusau, Zamfara State, the CAS also interacted with some of the Special Forces personnel, urging them to bring their special skills to bear in ensuring that the bandits are denied the ability to kill innocent civilians.
In Gusau, the CAS inspected facilities at the 207 Quick Response Group (207 QRG) and was briefed by the Commander of the Unit, Air Commodore Adindu Ekwuribe, on the contributions of the Unit to ongoing operations in Zamfara State. Air Marshal Abubakar also met with the Zamfara State Governor, Honourable Bello Matawalle, whom he thanked for his support to the NAF and other security agencies.
He also re-iterated his appeal for the provision of intelligence to facilitate effective operations in the State. The CAS noted that, as part of efforts geared towards ensuring adequate air support for ongoing operations in the North West and North Central, he had, in the past two weeks, visited Kaduna, Sokoto, Katsina and Gusau to assess and appreciate the successes recorded whilst identifying areas of challenge that would need to be addressed to enable more effective and efficient operations.