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Army budgets N3.350bn for new aviation unit, drone command centre

In spite of criticisms surrounding its involvement in airstrikes, especially with the recent “accidental” bombing of civilians in Kaduna State, the Nigerian Army has budgeted…

In spite of criticisms surrounding its involvement in airstrikes, especially with the recent “accidental” bombing of civilians in Kaduna State, the Nigerian Army has budgeted N2,555,713,396 to operationalise its revived aviation unit in the 2024 financial year.

In the 2024 budget estimate submitted by President Bola Tinubu to the National Assembly, the army also set aside N850m for the establishment of its Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (drone) command.

The Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja, in September explained that the Army had to revive the aviation unit in 2014 to complement ground troops’ responsiveness, agility and efficiency during operations.

He noted that in countries like the United States, Egypt, Kenya and Pakistan, their aviation units had shown effectiveness in combating contemporary security threats and providing vital support for ground forces.

In line with this, the army chief disclosed during the opening of the maiden Nigerian Army Aviation seminar in Abuja on September 26 that the President had approved the procurement of 12 MD 530F Cayuse Attack Helicopters by the army.

He had said at the event, “I am happy to inform you that the Nigerian Army is willing to learn from the army aviation journeys of the countries mentioned earlier. Our willingness to learn from them is to adapt their best practices to suit our unique operational environment and avoid their mistakes.

“The COAS said the army had submitted the aviation outfit to the Nigerian Air Force for proper mentoring.”

He said further that the army was willing to learn from the army aviation journeys of other countries and that the “willingness to learn from them is to adapt their best practices to suit our unique operational environment and avoid their mistakes. The army had submitted the aviation outfit to the air force for proper mentoring.”

Meanwhile, the army had come under severe attack after its UAV accidentally bombed some villagers in Tudun Biri in the Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State on Sunday night. The death toll from the attack was said to have risen to 126 on Thursday, while many others who sustained varying degrees of injuries were undergoing treatment in the hospital.

Many people had queried why the army got involved in air strikes when it could have partnered with the Air force for air support. Given the enormity of the damage and lives lost, the Federal Government had vowed that those found culpable would be punished accordingly.

Vice President Kashim Shettima, who represented Tinubu, visited the Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital on Thursday to commiserate with injured persons. He stated, “All measures will be taken to ensure that future occurrences are averted. The government will go to the root of the issue and anyone found culpable will be punished accordingly.”

With over N3bn budgeted for its aviation unit in 2024, the army, which had apologised for the mistake, appeared prepared to optimise the aviation unit.

In an interview with Arise TV News on Tuesday night, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Musa, said there was nothing unusual for the army to have an aviation unit. He had said, “The navy has helicopters, ships and Special Forces; the air force has fixed wings, helicopters and Special Forces; the army has Special Forces, land forces, amphibious forces and helicopters, including drones.

“We operate jointly and everybody has a role to play. The Army Aviation has been established, while the air force has its own. The pilots are well trained and well prepared for the operations. I just want to remind individuals that it is war we are fighting here and as human beings, we all make mistakes and this is one of them. It was not deliberate.”

In a separate development, the army is to spend about N32bn on barracks construction and renovations across the country.

According to the budget estimate, the barracks would be for both officers and soldiers as it noted that it would be done through direct labour.

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