Mali is now under a United Nations peace operation.
By Abdullahi Garba
After five months of deployment on peace enforcement mission in Mali, the final batch of about 50 soldiers including two women in the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), has returned to Nigeria.
The unit torched down on the tarmac of the Kaduna International airport on Saturday around 8.45 pm on board a C-130 NAF 917 aircraft.
Our correspondent gathered that the other soldiers are undergoing medical examination before they are re-deployed.
The airmen and women were brimming with laughter and joy as they were welcomed by top personnel of the NAF led by the Air Officer Commanding, Tactical Air Command, Makurdi, Air Vice Marshal Chima Echeflam represented by the Senior Air Staff Officer, Tactical Commander, Air Vice Marshal Monday Morgan.
Briefing newsmen before the arrival of the soldiers, the representative of the AOC said the Chief of Air Staff wanted to follow proper procedure for receiving the proud contingent which was deployed to Mali on a peace mission.
“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,” Mr.Morgan said.
“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 amours, 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,” he maintained.
He explained the NAF military police and intelligence was conducting 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 saying “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.
“The operation in Mali for now is over for Nigerian soldiers adding that 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.
On his part, the Air Component Commander, AVM Tayo Ogunto Oyinbo who lead the contingent described their stay in Mali as successful and adventurous.
“We would say to God be the glory, 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,” he said.