The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Alex Barde, has said that the Nigerian Air Force will Thursday morning commence the deployment of war planes in Mali.
This came as the Federal Government Wednesday expressed confidence that the military mission being undertaken in Mali by AFISMA with the support of the international community would be successful in restoring of the territorial integrity of Mali.
Barde, who paid his maiden visit to the Enugu Air Force unit, said the action was in compliance to President Goodluck Jonathan’s directive that military contingent be sent to assist the country to contain the jihad fighters.
He said: “As I speak to you now our air planes have arrived in Port-Harcourt; in-fact I’m on my way to Rivers State now and tomorrow morning we are beginning our deployment to Mali and that’s what I am going to witness.
“I am going there to bid them a sort of farewell and go-and-fight-well greetings as they depart.
“We expect them to do what Mr. President directed that we do; he has directed that we should go and assist Mali in repelling the jihad fighters there because you know that if they finish with Mali the next thing will be to come to Nigeria.
“So we are going there to fight them and also protect our borders.
“You don’t say how many families you are sending to war; but the president has directed that we send a total of 1200 in all; but you know it is our planes that fight and we are beginning deployment this morning.
The Air Force boss said his maiden visit to Enugu unit was to talk to them on his vision for the force.
“That we must use innovative technology because we have spent so much money buying equipment and each time they are bad we say we have to send them to the manufacturers for repairs.
“We have the know-how, we have the personnel, we have so many PhD holders, we have professionals in the Air Force and we cannot continue buying and not repairing.
“So I came to sensitise them about my vision and what we need to do in order to save the scarce resources that we have.”
Meanwhile the confidence of the Federal Government was conveyed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, at a meeting with Ambassadors from the European Union (EU), Canada and United States in Abuja.
He expressed joy that the military intervention has received immense support from the international community.
According to a statement issued by the ministry’s spokesperson, Mr. Ogbole Amedu Ode, the minister provided the envoys with an update on the deployment of Nigerian troops for the mission.
The Mali issue, Ashiru said, was of deep concern to Europe and the rest of the world, and not just to Africa or to West Africa. He therefore solicited their support and assistance.
“It is against this back drop that the military operations by the French, to dislodge Islamic militants and to regain northern Mali deserved the unflinching support of the international community,” the statement read.
The statement added that the envoys pledge their unwavering commitment to the military actions taken by France and Nigeria through AFISMA.
They however urged that the political process for a return to democratic rule be pursued alongside the ongoing military strategy.
----Christopher Isiguzo and Damilola Oyedele/This Day