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Boko Haram: NAF honours pilot who died in service

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Thursday immortalised a pilot, Squadron Leader Promise Gbenekannu, who died in the cockpit while providing logistics support to troops fighting terrorist group, Boko Haram.

Enlisted into the military on September 24, 2000 and commissioned September 24, 2005, Gbenekannu, 35, suffered a cardiac arrest and died on May 18, last year, while piloting one of the C-130 aircrafts in Borno State.

Despite the sudden seizure, the young officer was said to have successfully landed the logistics aircraft before he passed on.

For his sacrifice and diligence, the Chief of the Air Staff  (CAS) Air Marshal Sadiq Abubakar named a newly constructed 6 by 3 block of flat inside the Sam Ethnam Air Force Base after him.

The officer’s widow, Dr. Justina Gbenekannu, who was at the event said she was happy her husband gave his all in the service of the nation.

She said he led a short but fulfilled life, thanking the NAF for honouring him.

The woman said: “Life has not been the same after the passing of my husband. It has not been easy coping with two kids alone. Sometimes, it gets me down emotionally.

“But I am happy because he led a fufilled life and as short as it was, his name has been written in the anals of the NAF

“If the dead could see, I know that he would be happy wherever he is because of the honour.

“The NAF is proud of him and we, his family members are also proud of him. He died in active service. “We were married for two years and four months. Those were the most favorable moments of my life.

“He was a humble man. He was a husband and a father. There are times I wished he was here to continue playing his role as a father to our kids. Our kids will miss him because they won’t be able to say exactly how he was because they are still very young.”

Abubakar, who was represented at the inauguration by the Air Officer Commanding (AOC) Logistics Command, Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Ibrahim Yahaya said the project formed part of infrastructural renewal programme of the NAF, which was initiated in all bases for the good of personnel and their families.

He said: “The project has been named after one of our fallen heroes who died onboard the C-130 aircraft while on a logistics support mission for troops fighting insurgency and terrorism in the North East. The fallen hero was a C-130 pilot Squadron Leader Promise Leton Gbenekannu.

“The Sam Ethnan Air Force Base being one of the foremost bases in the NAF and the home of logistics command, is critical to the successful conduct of NAF operations

“It is therefore, only appropriate that such a base received a commensurate attention in terms of the provision of facilities for the general wellbeing of the personnel and their families.

“We have embarked on the construction of new quarters, as well as renovation of dilapidated buildings to address the infrastructural decay of the past.

“Accordingly, providing decent housing for officers, airmen and airwomen remain one of the first priorities of our policy thrust towards ensuring that NAF personnel and their families live in befitting accommodations and are better positioned to respond to various exigencies of the service.

“Arrangements are in top gear to address many other areas of infrastructural deficit including the renovation of more accommodation facility, as well as rehabilitation of roads and drainage systems in the base.

“It is hoped that this would create enabling environment and motivation for personnel to discharge their duties effectively and efficiently.”

Commending President Muhammadu Buhari for his support to the military, Abubakar said: “This has enhanced our ability to conduct counter insurgency operations and also contend with other emerging security challenges across the country.

“We must sustain our efforts to reposition the NAF into a highly professional and disciplined force for effective, efficient and timely employment of air power in response to Nigeria’s national security imperatives.

“We acknowledge that the human being is the most important in every organisation and equipping them appropriately is central to the achievement of success in securing Nigeria’s air space

“We therefore remain committed to continuous upgrading, reforming and building of new facilities of part of capacity development drive in all NAF units.”

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