Liberia: Nigerian Air Force to Assist AFL in Develop Airpower Capacity

Major General Prince Charles Johnson III of Liberia speaks to the press after he paid a courtesy visit to the headquarters of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) (HQ NAF) in Abuja

… following recent courtesy visit to Nigeria by AFL Chief of Staff

Nigeria has promised to help develop the capacity of the Airforce of Liberia’s military detachment as a means to ensure that Liberia begins utilizing its airspace to protect and safeguard the territorial boundaries of the country.

The Nigerian Airforce Department high-command made the disclosure about the assistance through a recent dispatch from that country when the Liberian Army Chief of Staff (CoS), Major General Prince Charles Johnson III, paid a courtesy visit to the headquarters of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) (HQ NAF) in Abuja.

The dispatch, a copy of which is in the possession of the Daily Observer,  was signed by Edward Gabkwet, Air Commodore and Director of Public Relations and Information of the Nigerian Air Force.

The Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Oladayo Amao, made the disclosure recently upon General Johnson’s visit.

It can be recalled that Jerreck Jeff Dwanah and Varney Adolphus Sirleaf, two soldiers of the AFL in 2018 became the first post-war certified pilots after months of vigorous training at the Nigeria Air Force training base.

 A winging ceremony for the two AFL personnel (now Flight Lieutenants) and twelve (12) other officers of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) was held at the Headquarters of the Nigerian Air Force in Abuja on Monday, April 16, 2018 after their completion of basic training at the International Aviation College in Ilorin, Nigeria and Afrika Union Aviation Academy in South Africa, respectively.

Represented by the Chief of Policy and Plans, Air vice Marshal Charles Ohwo, the Chief of Air Staff stated that NAF would provide the necessary technical and engineering support towards ensuring the activation of the Air Wing for the AFL.

“Whenever you have pilots for further training, you can be assured that our training schools are open for them to become full-fledged pilots under the Nigerian Air Force pilots training program,” he said. 

He went on to advise General Johnson to take advantage of NAF’s technical and engineering schools for non-pilot courses such as the Air Traffic Control and ground support crew and enroll his men and women in uniform who have interest in becoming members of Liberia’s future Air Force wing.

Air Marshal Amao reassured the Liberia Chief of Staff of NAF’s continuous support to provide recurrence training for the only 2 existing AFL pilots who were trained in Nigeria.

The Nigerian Chief of Air Staff, through his proxy, Amao, also noted that the NAF would support the AFL in providing airlift capacity for AFL contingent to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) once the request is made.

In his remarks, Major General Prince Charles Johnson, III stated that he was in Nigeria to further strengthen the bilateral ties between the AFL and Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) and to appreciate the AFN for its support to Liberia over the years, especially during the civil war.

Johnson appreciated Nigeria Air Force as the regional super power, noting that the relative peace and stability as well as the ongoing development Liberians enjoy now came as a result of the enormous support from Nigeria. 

He noted that most of the NAF’s senior officers, some of whom are still alive and in service, had sacrificed a lot in helping Liberia get back on track after the country's devastating civil war.

“Presently, the country’s strategic military objective is to establish an Air Wing or Air Reconnaissance Unit for the AFL as prescribed by Liberian’s National Defence Act but it is yet to be actualized. Therefore, we solicit Nigeria Air Force’s technical assistance to facilitate the establishment of Liberia’s Air Wing, considering NAF’s expertise in airpower,” he said.

He added that Nigeria’s military assistance to Liberia was numerous and cannot be over emphasized, especially in the training of her pilots. The Liberian Chief of Staff requested NAF to continue to assist his country in providing training slots for pilot and non-pilot courses with a view to tapping Nigeria's vast experience in defense and security.

General Johnson was accompanied to Nigeria by Col JS Willie, Commander of Coast Guard, AFL, Lt Col. LM Lamon, Deputy Defense Attaché to Accra as well as the two AFL pilots.

While Nigeria has a huge manpower in both its military and paramilitary forces, the country is faced with unending internal security threats, with Boko Haram, the longstanding terrorist group in the north of the country ceaselessly creating havocs and uneasiness for the state security by invading and destroying lives and properties in targeted areas of interest to them.

It is not known when Liberia will have the capacity to institutionalize an air force department within its military as the country’s competing priorities, ranging from an underperforming economy to a struggling education sector as well as the vulnerable healthcare system continue to mount pressure on the suffering masses of the country.