Posted by News Express | 8 July 2013 | 5,321 times
After five months of deployment on peace enforcement mission in Mali, the final batch of about 50 soldiers from the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) returned home to a heroic welcome over the weekend.
It was celebration galore as the C-130 NAF 917 aircraft conveying the contingent touched down at the Kaduna International Airport in North-West Nigeria around 8:45 p.m. on Saturday. The airmen and women where full of laughter and joy as they were welcomed by NAF personnel led by the Air Officer Commanding (AOC) Tactical Air Command, Makurdi, AVM Chima Echefulam, represented by the Senior Air Staff Officer, Tactical Commander, AVM Monday Morgan.
Briefing newsmen before the arrival of the soldiers, the representative of the AOC said: “We are here to receive our contingent who had to be sent to Mali when the crisis started. They had started returning from two days ago; the final batch is arriving this night.
“Part of the reasons why we made this arrival like a ceremony is that the Chief of the Air Staff, AM Alex Badeh, wants us to follow the proper procedure for receiving our proud contingent that have made Nigeria proud over there.
“We have started de-kitting the personnel; that is all the hardware that they went out with, we have taken almost all of them back to the armoury. We have also counseled them because they are coming back after restoring peace over there to start working with the civil society – they are no longer in an emergency environment.
“We have told them to behave themselves and we have received very good report about their conduct over there which has been very exemplary. Also, we have provided good accommodation and feeding since they came back and we are conducting medical examinations for them as we always do our troops who go out on missions to ensure that any kind of transmittable disease they got in the environment is properly curtailed and they are now dispatched to different units.”
AVM Morgan explained that the NAF military police and intelligence conducts a search on the troops to ensure that the same weapons that they were given to go are the same weapons they are coming back with “because we want the service to come back as a disciplined force like they went and from all indications, we have not had any of such towards this group.”
“We deployed 300 strong men originally, and some of our flying platforms and everybody has come back except the two fighter pilots we lost about a month ago; they were very young people and were given national honors by the President who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. But apart from that, there were no losses,” AVM Morgan said.
“The operation in Mali for now is over for Nigerian soldiers. Nigeria went there as an intervention force of which the intervention is through as a regional representation. Now the United Nations has taken over, so we have been directed to come back because already, the first phase of regional cooperation has taken place and if there is any other responsibility that the UN is going to give to Nigeria is left in the hands of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces who normally has the prerogative to deploy for such exercises.
“We have finished the regional aspect of the campaign, stability has somehow returned to Mali and that is why we are coming back.”
Speaking, the Air Component Commander, AVM Tayo Ogunto Oyinbo, who led the contingent, described their stay in Mali as successful and adventurous.
“We would say to God be the glory,” he said. “We have gone and come back safely. It was a worthwhile experience for me and my men while in Mali because the mission we went for is accomplished.
“Mali was interesting, adventurous, as you know, it was a military parade and I would say it’s been worthwhile going over there, what we went for, we succeed in accomplishing it and that's why we are back.
“The performance has been very excellent, discipline was high, as per Nigerian standards and all the participants from other countries did acknowledge that we did our best and we have achieved our best.”
•Photo courtesy Channels TV.
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