The Senate Committee on Navy has called for more funding for the Nigeria Air Force (NAF), to assist it in its critical role of safeguarding the country’ territorial integrity.
The Chairman of the Committee, Sen. Duro Faseyi made the call at the NAF’s budget defence exercise on Thursday in Abuja.
While decrying that the 2018 Budget had capital release of less than 50 per cent, Faseyi said more was needed to be done in terms of releases to the NAF.
He noted that, “The problem is under-funding, because the Air Force is saddled with so much responsibility like surveillance and many more.
“The 2018 budget did not even have up 50 per cent capital release. We had to roll it over to this year.
“Their job is enormous yet the funding is poor. They are the ones that would spot attacks and areas that should be on red attack before those on land go ahead to attack.
“Besides, they are useful in other areas like lifting of electoral materials particularly in the last elections.
“Everything about air is expensive including fueling. The jet A One for instance is very expensive. So, how do we expect them to carry out their mandate effectively with poor funding?”
The chairman while appreciating efforts made by President Muhammadu Buhari in coming to their aid when necessary, however said beyond that, the NAF’s budgetary allocation should be increased.
He said the committee on its part would approach Committee on Appropriation and the Minister of Budget and National Planning to make a special case for increment.
“Budgeting process is crucial and it is as important as other functions of the Parliament.
“The desire of the 8th National Assembly for thoroughness and transparency in this year’s exercise, informed its decision to suspend plenary and other legislative engagements so that this year’s appropriation exercise gets the required attention.
“There is no gain saying the fact budgeting is important for planning.
“One is not unaware that the Air Force is a very expensive force. None of us is oblivious of the fact that our Armed Forces have had a long history of persistent under-funding.
“However, the realities of the times we live in, compels us to be more prudent and set our priorities in such a way that they are in tandem with our collective desire to ensure judicious and equitable allocation of our scarce resources,” he said.
He commended the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Sadique Abubakar for his effort to reposition the NAF.
Presenting the budget, The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Sadique Abubakar said the NAF had made tremendous process in carrying out its core mandate.
He said the NAF was constitutionally vested with protecting the territorial integrity of the nation and assisting civil authority when called upon.
“The Air Force has been actively engaged in combating several security challenges bedeviling the nation which include act of terrorism, kidnapping, armed banditry and militancy among others.
“The NAF is involved in several operations. Some of which include Operations Lafiya Dole in the North East, Diran Mikiya in the North West and Yanchin Tafki in the Lake Chad Basin to mention a few.
“With your support, this administration has increased the serviceability status of NAF aircraft from about 40 per cent to an average of 80 per cent today.
“The improved serviceability status enabled us carry out over 43, 000 sorties of about 57,000 flying hours between June 15 and Feb. 18 for various operations.
“These include 20,140 flying hours for Intelligence and Surveillance that enabled the NAF to get real time information to assist surface forces and NAF aircraft carry out precise attacks if necessary.
“The NAF has also substantially increased its aircraft fleet by inducting 22 new aircraft into its fleet and reactivated erstwhile unserviceable ones, while eight others are currently being overhauled,’’ he said.
The Chief of Air Staff noted that NAF would soon take delivery of “qty 2 Augusta 109 Power helicopters which were appropriated by the committee and another MI-35M gunship helicopter.”
He noted that NAF would take delivery of “a C-130H aircraft in a few weeks after an in-country Periodic Depot Maintenance.
“The NAF has also created new commands and units all over the country. We have created the Special Operations Command, Air Training Command and Ground Training Command in Enugu.
“Some of the new units created have enjoyed NAF presence in Nguroje, Shari, Bauchi, Daria, Domain and Gusau.”
He said in the area of enlistment and recruitment “the administration has a total of 669 Officers and recruited 7, 693 Airmen and Airwomen.
“Presently 206 Officers are in training while the NAF plans to recruit about 2000 airmen and airwomen this year.
“We have also enhanced our Force Projection and Force Protection through the training of about 4000 Regiment Personnel and over 1000 Special Forces personnel locally and abroad.
“The NAF was only recently called upon to assist the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to airlift about 692 tons of electoral materials to 31 different locations in the country.”