The Republic of Belarus will open an embassy in Nigeria’s capital Abuja next year and will also establish an aircraft overhaul centre in the country.
Last week Major General Siarhei V Barysionak, director general of the state-owned Foreign Trade Military Enterprise, met with Nigerian permanent secretary of the ministry of defence Linus Awute in Abuja, according to the Daily Trust. Barysionak said that Belarus would open an embassy in Abuja next year and would advise his country to establish a helicopter maintenance and repair facility in Nigeria.
“The government of Belarus had made a decision to set up an embassy in Nigeria and, at present, the technical issues are on and in the beginning of 2012, the embassy will start operations,” Barysionak said. “This will ensure deeper co-operation between the two countries.”
“The absence of a Belarus embassy in Nigeria has made a consistent technical interface to be difficult. So, it is necessary we develop a timetable that will bring about regular meetings on an annual basis. This will enable us look into the opportunities we have in Belarus and the development challenges we have in the military, so that it can be customised with the opportunities available in the country. But, when there is a regular interface, this will work better,” Awute said.
He added that relations between Nigeria and Belarus should be more than commercial in nature and that the countries should see each other as partners in military development.
“We are happy that you are now working on the need to have a Belarusian embassy in Nigeria and we are also excited that you have prescribed a timeline for that,” Awute said. “When that happens it is going to fast-track a lot of things in our relationship.”
Belarus has no office in Nigeria but established military ties with the African nation in 2003. Belarusian company BVST currently maintains the Nigerian Air Force’s fleet of Mi-35 helicopters and Nigeria has sent pilots and engineers to train in Belarus. The Nigerian Air Force has also sent personnel to train in China, Greece, Italy and the USA, amongst other nations.
Aircraft serviceability is a major issue for the Nigerian Air Force as much of its aircraft have been grounded due to lack of spares and servicing. However, over the last decade the Air Force has made a major effort to address the problem and serviceability has improved dramatically.
To address the issue the Nigerian Air Force continues to develop in-country maintenance facilities with partnerships between Aeronautical Engineering and Technical Services Limited (AETSL) and companies like Alenia Aeronautica, AgustaWestland and BSVT. Alenia performed G.222 work and set up maintenance facilities and AgustaWestland set up a service and maintenance facility in Ikeja. BVST supports the maintenance of Mil helicopters at 97 Special Operations Group in Port Harcourt.
The Nigerian Air Force has a large helicopter force used for attack, transport, assault support, search and rescue and medical duties. In the attack role it flies two Mil Mi-24Vs, two Mi-24Ps and five Mi-35 Hinds. The latter were delivered in September 2000. Transport and utility helicopters include two AgustaWestland AW139s, four Mi-171s, and five Aerospatiale SA 330 Pumas (out of 15 originally). A dozen AgustaWestland AW109E/LUHs were recently ordered and these began arriving in February last year.