The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) over the weekend, honoured the five (5) crew members of the Mi-35M helicopter that crashed in Damasak, Borno State on 2 January 2019 while providing close air support to troops of 145 Battalion.
The 5 deceased crew members were honoured alongside, the Late Squadron Leader Mohammed Bello Baba-Ari, a fighter Instructor Pilot who died during rehearsals for aerial display for Nigeria’s 58th Independence Celebration, as well as 13 other deserving NAF personnel and civilians who had distinguished themselves in their areas of responsibilities in 2018.
The humanitarian efforts of the Nigerian Air Force Officers’ Wives Association (NAFOWA) were also specially recognized with an award presented to the National President of the Association, Hajiya Hafsat Abubakar.
Similarly, the most collaborating civilian institution in the area of Research and Development (R & D) was recognized while officers of air rank who retired from active service between September 2017 and January 2019 were also honoured to mark their years of invaluable contributions to the NAF and meritorious service to the Nation.
The deserving personnel were honoured at the Chief of the Air Staff’s Annual Awards Night for 2018—an annual event which provides a forum to appreciate and recognize NAF personnel and civilian staff who have distinguished themselves and made remarkable difference in the course of the year. It was a spectacular night to behold as the honourees filed out one after the other to receive their awards.
Speaking during the colourful ceremony, the Guest of Honour, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, represented by the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, commended the CAS, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, for his foresight and for encouraging excellence by ensuring that those who have contributed to the success of the NAF are recognized and rewarded.
According to him, recognition and awards are effective management tools that motivate personnel who are doing well to keep up the work whilst also challenging those performing below expectations to redouble their efforts.
The SGF stated further that, “It is glaring that the NAF has made huge sacrifices through the commitment, dedication and perseverance of its personnel in the defence of our Nation. The conduct of sustained air operations, both night and day, by the NAF is significantly responsible for the successes recorded so far in our war against insurgency and other criminalities. I therefore wish to commend the CAS for the high level of professionalism being displayed by the NAF”, he said.
While congratulating all award winners and urging them not to rest on their oars, the SGF encouraged other personnel, who may not have received an award, not to despair. He noted that with perseverance and hard work their day of recognition would also come.
In his remarks, the CAS stated that the occasion was meant to celebrate personnel who showed courage in the face of terror and exhibited strength where others saw fear; personnel who applied ingenuity where others perceived impossibility.
He emphasized that the operational successes achieved particularly in the outgone year, 2018, would not have been possible without the dogged determination, commitment and sacrifices made by officers and airmen/airwomen of the Service.
According to him, the personnel operated under very demanding and tough conditions in the various theatres of operations, with some unfortunately paying the supreme sacrifice.
“We will not fail to recognize the sacrifices of our colleagues who in the course of duty to this great country paid the supreme price. Let me assure you that their sacrifice is not in vain as it has further spurred us to remain focused and ever determined in realizing a secure, peaceful and prosperous Nigeria.
“To the families of our deceased colleagues, be rest assured that you are not forgotten. The NAF will continue to provide the necessary assistance and support in appreciation of the sacrifice of your loved ones”, the CAS reiterated.
Air Marshal Abubakar reminded the awardees not to lose steam or rest on their oars. He urged them to keep up the good work while also stating that the contributions of all other NAF personnel to the progress of the Service were not unnoticed. “The NAF cannot be strong and effective without our collective contributions no matter how modest they may be. Hence, believe in yourselves and try to be better than you have been”, he said.
The CAS, who expressed his sincere appreciation to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, for his visionary leadership and continued support for the NAF, and also congratulated the Chief of Administration, Headquarters NAF, Air Vice Marshal Kingsley Lar, and his Team for putting together a colourful event.
For the senior officers’ category, Wing Commander Mohammed Umar, Squadron Leader Sunkanmi Akinbohun and Squadron Leader Ubong Sunday were honoured with the CAS Award while Flight Lieutenant Ibrahim Goni and Flying Officer Jeremiah Dogonzo won the junior officers’ category.
For the Senior Non Commissioned Officers’ (SNCOs) Category, Warrant Officer Shuaibu Yusuf, Sergeant Samanja Ishaya and Sergeant Alabi David were honoured, while Corporal Adeleke Abiodun and Lance Corporal Shinku Godwin received the awards in the Non Commissioned Officers’ (NCOs) Category. Mr Goke Akande and Mr Emmanuel Ngene won the senior civilian staff and junior civilian staff category, respectively, while University of Maiduguri emerged the most collaborating civilian Institution of the year 2018.
In the same vein, Air Commodore Olufemi Odeyinde, Group Captain Olayinka Oyesola and Air Commodore Paul Efanga were recognized for emerging best overall and Best All Round Participant, Second Overall in Order of Merit and Third Overall in Order of Merit at the National Defence College (NDC) Course 26, respectively. Squadron Leader Fredrick Oyenusi was equally recognized for emerging the Best Overall in Order of Merit at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College Senior Course 40 and winning the “Tie of Merit” for attaining a “B” Grade on the course.