When the former governor of Kwara State, Dr Bukola Saraki, now the current Senate President, conceived the idea of setting up the International College of Aviation (ICA), Ilorin about five years ago, little did critics of the projects knew that the project would one day be used as a training ground for the Nigerian Navy.
But at present the ICA, has attained a lofty height that only a numbskull would perceive it as a white elephant project. The serene location, adjoining the Ilorin Airport and state of the art equipment at the college might have irresistibly inspired the Nigerian Navy into entering a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with it.
The collaboration would have been almost impracticable and impossible, but for the training competence of the institution and the newly acquired Aviation Training Organisation (ATO) status of the institution.
IAC was established by Kwara State Government to provide human capital for the aviation industry. It commenced flight training in January, 2013 and has enrolled six sets of Standard Pilot Course. But with the recent flag-off of Helicopter Pilot Training at the college by the state Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, the institution’s status is now rated second to none in Africa.
According to the Chairman of the IAC, Captain Edward Boyo,: “It is usually a great wisdom to merge resources at a period like this. Therefore in advancement of aviation education, youth capacity building, strategic security of the nation and optimisation of scarce resources, the Nigerian Navy and IAC have joined forces to initiate a Helicopter Training School to serve both military and civilian communities in Nigeria and Africa.
“It should be noted that since 2011 when the IAC was commissioned, it has successfully trained pilots and other professionals for the Nigeria Police, Nigerian Navy and Nigerian Air Force alongside the civil pilots.”
Speaking on the new status of the college, Governor Ahmed said it would no doubt enable the school to achieve the much desired objective of becoming a one-stop aviation training institution that would further show case Kwara as an aviation hub in Nigeria.
He added: “it is also imperative to note that the institution’s partnership with various military organisations in the country such as the Nigerian Navy and the Air Force testifies to its growing reputation as a centre of excellence in aviation training. It is on record that IAC Ilorin, trained 25 cadets of the Nigeria Air Force in 2014.”
Ahmed, while describing the College as not only the pride of Kwara but that of the nation disclosed how of recent many states and foreign governments have indicated interests in sponsoring students for training at the school. Besides, he canvassed a policy that would make aviation operators in Nigeria employ more locally trained pilots, saying Nigeria has the training facilities, structures and personnel to train world class pilots.”
He added: “indeed, infrastructural development in the state’s aviation sector such as the world-class IAC, the Ilorin International Airport, which has the longest runway outside of Lagos, alongside the Cargo Terminal that is about to commence operations, the presence in Ilorin of an Air Force Hangar and the Nigerian Navy additional plans to set up a training wing in the state gives credence to the state’s position as an emerging aviation hub in the country.”
Although some critics of the establishment of the college had referred to it as being elitist, “due to its fees,” Ahmed said the establishment of the institution was due to the shortage of properly trained pilots in the aviation industry, combined with governments’ youth empowerment strategy and the institution’s potential to contribute to the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) by boosting economic activities in the state.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Ibok Ibas, who lauded the relationship between the Navy and the aviation college disclosed his readiness to make the nation’s navy a model for other African countries.
Ibas said no Navy could thrive in the current world be-devilled by terrorists without looking inward for modern approach to warfare especially those that could threaten the territorial oceans of a particular nation.
He spoke in Ilorin through the Chief of Logistic Nigeria Navy, Rear Admiral Anbah Ayankpele, on the occasion of the handing/taking over ceremony of two X AB206 helicopters as part of the training MoU.
The helicopter wing sealed in the MoU between the institution and the government has bolstered the status of the college in Africa.
According to the Naval Chief, the helicopter project apart from assisting the Navy in its water ways operational mode would turn the college into a personnel training institute for other West African nations with accruing economic benefits to Nigeria.
He noted: “The relationship between the Navy and Kwara state dated back to several years ago. Kwara had produced notable naval officers in the past hence its choice for an endeavour like this is good. The intention is to create regional training hub in West Africa to develop local capacity in response to the global economic recession. Any serious minded nation would do what we are doing here today.
“The principal objective is that by bringing together IAC’s expertise and facilities, with the Navy’s rotary facilities and experience and reputation, we hope to create a unique combination of fixed and rotary wing training for civil and non-civil organisations and individuals in the West African sun-region and beyond within one institution.
For the Nigerian Navy, we hope to train our aviators to global standards, improve their proficiency thereby building their capacity, thus contributing to the overall efficiency in coordinated naval operations for the Nation’s maritime domain.”
He was enthused with the available facilities at IAC Ilorin, especially the “all year round clement weather” adding that it would fast track training of individuals and Naval aviators to make naval operation effective on the nation’s maritime domain just as he said more helicopters would be added to the existing two showed case.
For Rear Admiral J.O. Oluwole, the Director of Nigeria Navy Holdings the partnership romance between the Navy and the college started about four months ago. Oluwole while describing the venture as “a worthwhile relationship” said “some West African Countries are already beckoning on us for training.”