NAF denies paying N20m to bandits in exchange for captured anti-aircraft gun over

The Nigerian Air Force has denied a report that it paid N20m to bandits in exchange for an anti-aircraft gun seized from the Nigerian Army.


According to a report by Wall Street Journal on Sunday, the anti-aircraft gun was stolen by the bandits after a clash with a military unit in Rugu Forest in Katsina state


The US media said that the NAF brokered the deal as the President Buhari was planning a trip to Katsina. 


According to WSJ, the N20 million was delivered to the bandits in Rugu Forest by a Nigerian Air Force officer, because such weapon in the hands of criminals posed a threat to President Buhari who was flying “to his hometown about 80 miles away.” 


“Over tea, the militant leader agreed to part with the truck-mounted 12.7 calibre anti-aircraft gun in exchange for the ransom.” the report claimed. 


However, the Nigerian Air Force denied making such payment to bandits in exchange for weapons.


A statement on Sunday, October 17, by the Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore, Edward Gabkwet, titled: NAF DID NOT MAKE ANY PAYMENT TO BANDITS IN EXCHANGE FOR WEAPONS” said there was no truth in the report. 


“The attention of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) 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 (LGA) of Katsina State in exchange for an anti-aircraft gun allegedly seized,” the statement read.


“The report went on to state that the reason behind the payment was to retrieve the anti-aircraft gun which, it alleged, the NAF feared could be used against aircraft operating within Katsina State


“The NAF wishes to categorically state that there is absolutely no iota of truth in the spurious allegation that was undoubtedly designed to cast aspersions on the good image of the Service


“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 5 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


“On our part, the NAF, as a professional and disciplined force, will not in any way be discouraged from carrying out its mandate to rid the entire North-West Nigeria of banditry and other forms of criminality. We remain resolute in performing our function and will continue to work in synergy with other sister Services and security agencies to rid the Country of all criminal elements.”