As a mark of honour for the supreme price paid by Late Squadron Leader (Sqn Ldr) Muhammed Bello Baba-Ari, an experienced fighter pilot who died on 28 September 2018 while participating in the aerial display rehearsals for the 58th Nigerian Independence Day Celebration, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has named the newly commissioned Pilots’ Crew Room at the Headquarters Air Task Force (HQ ATF) Operation LAFIYA DOLE in Maiduguri after the late senior officer. The ultra-modern Pilots Crew Room Building, which houses a briefing room, computer room/library, pilots’ life-support room, lounge, recreation room, kitchen, 3 bedrooms for pilots on standby as well as several restrooms, would go a long way in adding value to the fight against insurgency and bolstering the morale of officers and men in the frontlines. The ceremony, which took place in Maiduguri today, 18 December 2018, also witnessed the commissioning of a newly constructed HQ ATF Extension Building as well as the winging of 5 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) pilots, in furtherance of the capacity building initiatives of the current NAF leadership.
In his remarks during the event, the Special Guest of Honour (SGOH), former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Marshal Al-Amin Daggash, commended the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, for the monumental achievements the current NAF administration has made since 2015. He acknowledged the many milestones attained in such a short time, as evidenced by the many completed projects in all NAF Bases across the Country. This, he said, was a clear testimony of the zeal and commitment of the CAS to the welfare of NAF personnel. He equally expressed admiration for the remarkable operational achievements the NAF had recorded in the past 3 years. According to him, the achievements were clearly manifested in the NAF’s effective projection of air power in pursuit of national security objectives across the country, particularly in Operation LAFIYA DOLE. He noted that the highly commendable operational successes were attributed largely to the dynamic leadership of the CAS as well as the acquisition and induction of various platforms into the inventory of the NAF by the Federal Government. He therefore expressed appreciation to President Muhammadu Buhari for providing necessary support to enhance the operational readiness and welfare of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, in spite of the current economic realities of the Country.
Speaking further, Air Marshal Daggash noted that the winging of the 5 UAV pilots was yet another testimony of the CAS’ adept dexterity in focusing attention on all aspects of Service growth. He congratulated the officers for attaining their new status while urging them to employ their newly acquired knowledge and skill to add value to efforts aimed at securing the nation. The former CDS also commended the CAS for immortalizing late Sqn Ldr Baba-Ari, a committed, dedicated and experienced fighter pilot who participated actively in the operations in the North-East, by naming the magnificent Pilots’ Crew Room Building after him. He described the gesture as befitting and appropriate. He enjoined officers and men to imbibe such sterling qualities while redoubling their efforts to uplift the NAF and the Nation to more enviable heights.
The CAS, in his opening remarks, expressed delight to be in Maiduguri to assess the conduct of operations while also seizing the opportunity to witness the commissioning of the projects and winging of the UAV pilots. He noted that the event was another opportunity to re-focus attention on the clarion call of the nation for increased commitment to duty and service. He observed that the NAF has been performing very crucial roles towards providing the much needed air support to enable ground operations proceed unhindered. According to him, “in pursuit of the NAF’s constitutional roles, and also in line with my vision for the NAF, I have constantly sought, not only to evolve strategies that would enable the Service adequately project air power to effectively and efficiently deal with prevalent security threats, but to also see to it that personnel welfare is given utmost priority”, he said.
The CAS, who expressed satisfaction with the progressive performances of the ATF against the insurgents, especially during the last Operation GREEN SWEEP, further charged the Task Force to reciprocate the various welfare enhancements by dealing harder and more effective blows against the remaining elements of the Boko Haram insurgents with a view to completely eliminating them. He reassured the troops of NAF support, particularly in providing what they require to prosecute the war, as far as the prevailing national economic realities permit. Air Marshal Abubakar also thanked the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buahari, for his overwhelming support to the NAF towards the achievement of its desired goals. He pledged the resolute commitment of the Service to the successful execution of the ongoing counterinsurgency efforts. He also specially appreciated the SGOH and former CDS for his presence at the event while noting that the enviable status of the NAF was attributable to the legacies he and previous Chiefs had built in the past.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Commander ATF, Air Vice Marshal James Gwani, said the CAS, in seeking to enhance the welfare of the ever increasing number of personnel posted to the ATF, had embarked on massive construction of office and residential accommodation in NAF Base Maiduguri. He noted that this had gone long way in boosting the morale and fighting spirit of the troops. He said the Pilots’ Crew Room was simply another one of such morale-boosting initiatives aimed at providing a dedicated, purpose-built location for aircrew to relax and refresh before or after operational missions. He therefore expressed the profound gratitude of the entire ATF to the CAS for the final realization of a Pilots’ Crew Room, consistent with international standards.
Director of Public Relations and Information
Nigerian Air Force