The Nigerian Air Force (NAF), on Sunday denied paying N20 million to armed bandits as ransom in exchange for an anti-aircraft gun allegedly seized from the military.
The report which emanated from The Wall Street Jounal, claimed that NAF coordinated ransom payments to armed bandits in exchange for an anti-aircraft gun seized from the Nigerian Army at a time President Muhammadu Buhari was planning a trip to Katsina, his home state.
The U.S. outlet said N20 million was delivered to the bandits in Rugu Forest by a Nigerian Air Force official, who leaked details of the operation under anonymity, because the military realised that it would be too risky to leave the weapon in the hands of violent criminals operating in an area the presidential jet would fly over.
“The mission to buy back the anti-aircraft gun began with a handoff from a high-ranking air force intelligence officer in the capital Abuja: a black zip-up bag he said was full of N20 million,” the paper reported, after stating that such military hardware in the hands of bandits “posed a threat to President Muhammadu Buhari, who had been planning to fly to his hometown about 80 miles away.”
Director of Public Relations and Information, Nigerian Air Force, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet, in a statement described the report as fake and an attempt to tarnish the image of NAF.
“The said report is totally false. It should therefore be taken as fake news and disregarded. Indeed, we ordinarily would not have responded to such baseless and utterly illogical allegation but for the need to set the record straight as well as reaffirm the NAF’s unflinching commitment to decisively dealing with the armed bandits and all other criminal elements in the country in partnership with other services of the Armed Forces and other security agencies.
“For the avoidance of doubt, it must be stated that there is no basis for the NAF to pay bandits or any criminal elements that it has continued to attack and decimate in Katsina State, other parts of the North-West as well as other Theatres of Operation in the country.
“Indeed, as recent as 12 October 2021, NAF aircraft conducted five missions in the Jibia general area and engaged targets with rockets and cannons at Bala Wuta bandits’ locations in Kadaoji. “Similar successes were recorded at Fakai Dutsin Anfare, an area in Jibia LGA known for its high incidences of bandits’ activities.
“The false reportage therefore, begs the question as to why the NAF would negotiate for a weapon allegedly seized and still carry out air interdiction missions on the same bandits and their strongholds.
“The NAF is of the view that, this latest false report could be a part of a campaign to further the cause of insecurity in Nigeria by elements who see the NAF as a threat following series of successful exploits in operations against criminal gangs.
“Perhaps, this provides an avenue for the NAF to yet again appeal to members of the media, both local and international, as well as social media, to be circumspect in their reportage and endeavour to always verify their facts before going public.
“The public is enjoined to disregard the falsehood emanating from some sections of the social and mainstream media.
“The NAF also uses this opportunity to call on citizens to continue to cooperate with security agencies as efforts are ongoing to rid the entire Nation of criminals and their activities,” he said.