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The Nigerian Air Force has refuted a Wall Street Journal claim that it paid N20 million to bandits in order for them to retrieve an anti-aircraft cannon captured from the Nigerian Army.

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According to the allegation, the NAF struck the accord as President Muhammadu Buhari was on his way to Katsina, his home state.

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According to the US media site, a Nigerian Air Force officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity revealed details of the mission to the bandits in Rugu Forest.

 

This is because the military realized that leaving the weapon in the hands of violent criminals operating in an area where the presidential plane would fly would be too unsafe.

 

The rough, lawless jungle that encompasses portions of Kaduna, Zamfara, and the President’s home state of Katsina has long served as a shelter for bandits terrorizing Nigeria’s northwestern regions. Security services have previously warned that a major share of abduction plans originate or end in or around the forest.

The Nigerian Air Force, on the other hand, denied making such payments to bandits in exchange for weaponry.

The spokesperson, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet, stated in a statement on Sunday that the report was false.

 

“The Nigerian Air Force’s attention has been drawn to news reports circulating on some media platforms alleging that the NAF, through one of its personnel, paid the sum of N20 million to armed bandits operating in Jibia Local Government Area of Katsina State in exchange for an anti-aircraft gun allegedly seized,” it said.

According to the report, the payment was made in order to retrieve the anti-aircraft cannon, which the NAF feared may be used against planes operating in Katsina State.

“The NAF wishes to state unequivocally that there is not one shred of truth in the slanderous charge, which was clearly intended to throw doubt on the excellent ima.”

 

The aforementioned report is completely incorrect. As a result, it should be viewed as fake news and ignored. Indeed, we would not have responded to such a baseless and utterly illogical allegation if it had not been for the need to clear the air and reaffirm the NAF’s unwavering commitment to dealing decisively with armed bandits and other criminal elements in the country in collaboration with other services of the Armed Forces and other security Agencies.

 

To be clear, there is no need for the NAF to pay bandits or other criminal elements that it has continued to target and decimate in Katsina State, other portions of the North-West, and other theaters of operation across the country.

Indeed, as recently as October 12, 2021*, NAF aircraft flew 5 missions in the Jibia area, engaging targets with rockets and cannons at the sites of the Bala Wuta bandits near Kadaoji.

 

Similar successes were documented in Fakai Dutsin Anfare, a Jibia LGA area notorious for its high instances of banditry. As a result of the erroneous reporting, it begs the question of why the NAF would negotiate for a weapon reportedly confiscated while still conducting air interdiction raids on the same bandits and their strongholds.

“The NAF believes that this new bogus story is part of a campaign by elements that regard the NAF as a threat following a series of successful exploits in operations against criminal groups to further the cause of insecurity in Nigeria.”

 

 

“Perhaps, this provides an avenue for the NAF to once again call to members of the media, both local and international, as well as social media, to be careful in their reporting and to always verify their facts before going public,” the statement continued. The audience is urged to disregard the falsehoods spread by some elements of social and mainstream media.

“The NAF also takes this occasion to urge residents to continue cooperating with security authorities as efforts to cleanse the country of criminals and their activities continue.”

 

 

The NAF, as a professional and disciplined force, will not be deterred from carrying out its mandate to clear North-West Nigeria of banditry and other forms of criminality. We remain steadfast in our mission and will continue to collaborate with other sister Services and security agencies to cleanse the country of all criminal elements.

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