By Raphael Oni
His Excellency Alhaji Yahaya Bello, the Executive Governor of Kogi State, has called for the establishment of a Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Base in Kogi State, saying it is long overdue. Bello made the call during a courtesy visit to the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Oladayo Amao at Headquarters NAF. This was contained in a press statement from the office NAF Spokesperson, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet made available to press men.
According to the Governor, the establishment of a NAF Base in the State would check the activities of bandits as well as facilitate intelligence gathering against criminal elements who have established safe haven in some parts of the State.
Governor Bello also disclosed that the State had approached the NAF in 2017 to consider establishing a Forward Operating Base (FOB) at a colonial era airstrip in Zariagi near Lokoja, to which the NAF in 2018 dispatched a reconnaissance team to survey the suitability status of the location for consideration.
The Governor also stated that the need to revisit the matter became necessary in view of the activities of bandits and other criminal elements who have relocated to the State after military operations in September 2020 at Utu Forest situated between Nasarawa and Kogi States forced them out of their comfort zone.
He went further to reveal that bandits fleeing from the intense fire power of the military in the Northeast and Northwest have regrouped in locations between Lokoja and Kabba/Bunu.
The security situation in these areas, according to Governor Bello, has led to the residents of the areas relocating to other parts of the State.
The Governor went on to state that considering the threats posed by these criminals, coupled with the strategic importance of the State, the need for the revitalization of the talks on the establishment of an FOB became necessary.
Earlier, he had commended the CAS for his consistent responsiveness towards the activities of insurgents and armed bandits.
In his response, the CAS commended Governor Bello for early detection of the activities of bandits and for his efforts at securing Kogi State
He noted that recently, bandits and other criminal elements have become very mobile as, “Once they come under intense fire in one location, they quickly migrate to another location in search of a safe hiding place.”
He, however, assured the Governor that the mandate by President Muhammadu Buhari that the Nation must be rid of all criminal elements remains on course and in no distant time, the security situation in Kogi State and environs would take a positive turn.
On the request for the establishment of an FOB, Air Marshal Amao assured the Governor that a team will be constituted to review the report submitted in 2018 with a view to reactivating the plan for the establishment of the FOB.
According to the CAS, “The fact that an airstrip already exists in the proposed location is an advantage.”
Highlights of the visit included the laying of wreaths by Governor Bello at the NAF Memorial Arcade in respect of NAF personnel who had paid the supreme price in the course of duty.
The visit was witnessed by Branch Heads from Headquarters NAF and some members of Kogi State Executive Council.