By Ajogwu Jerry

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) yesterday, flagged off the planting season for the Port Harcourt Chapter of the Base Youths Empowerment Through Agriculture (BYETA) Programme.

The BYETA Programme, an initiative of the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abuabkar, is aimed at empowering youths economically in order to curb social vices and crime among youths residing on Nigeria Air Force (NAF) Bases.

In a statement issued by the Director of Public Relations and Information, Nigerian Air Force, Air Vice Marshal Olatokunbo Adesanya, the programme is aimed at promoting agriculture and self-sufficiency among the youths.

“The desire of the CAS is to ensure that youths in all NAF Bases are positively engaged in productive enterprises, as many of their parents are on deployment to the Northeast and other parts of the country for various Internal Security operations,” he said.

While speaking during the flag-off ceremony at 115 Special Operations Group Port Harcourt, the Chief of Air Staff, represented by the Air Officer Commanding (AOC) Tactical Air Command, Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Isiaka Amao, reiterated the commitment of the current NAF leadership to develop human capacity, not only of personnel but also of the youths residing on all NAF Bases.

This, according to him, is in line with the first key driver of CAS Vision, which is ‘human capacity development through robust and result oriented training for enhanced professional performance’.

“The youths represent the future and a misdirected youth population will ultimately lead to a misdirected community”, he said.

AVM Amao maintained that BYETA members had been encouraged to form agriculture cooperative societies for the purpose of accessing loans to boost food production.

While noting that the cooperative societies had been formed, he added that the NAF Investments Limited was also interested in funding some aspects of the BYETA Programme.

He urged all youths above 18 years residing on the Base to take advantage and fully participate in the scheme to enhance their resource base and also learn a skill, which they might need later in life.

AVM Amao thanked the Chief of Air Staf, Air Marshal Abubakar, for the laudable initiative.

He seized the opportunity to commission some value addition projects undertaken by 115 SOG Port Harcourt, including a walkway as well as fencing of Motor Transport Yard and Naval Ratings Quarters in the Base.

Earlier in his remarks, the Commander 115 Special Operations Group, Air Commodore Elijah Ebiowe stated that 106 youths are now participating in the BYETA Programme, a sharp improvement from only 45 youths that initially showed interest.

According to him, aside from crop farming, plans are underway to commence training in fishery and poultry.

In addition, the Unit intends to collaborate with viable agricultural agencies that could promote training and also grant needed sponsorships for the programme.

According to the Commander, the crops to be cultivated include yam, cucumber, pumpkin and cassava.

The occasion was graced by officials of the Rivers State Ministry of Agriculture and other government organizations.

It would be recalled that BYETA Programme was first launched in the NAF in Year 2016.
So far, the scheme has been replicated in Makurdi, Kaduna, Lagos and Benin.

The official flag-off of the planting season for the remaining NAF units has been scheduled for later dates because of variations in farming seasons.