The Nigerian Air Force has denied a report that it paid N20m as ransom to bandits operating in Jibia, Katsina State in exchange for an anti-aircraft gun allegedly seized from the Nigerian Army.
US media outlet, the Wall Street Journal alleged in a report on Sunday that the N20 million was delivered to the bandits in Rugu Forest by a Nigerian Air Force officer, who leaked details of the operation under anonymity.
But the Nigerian Air Force, in a statement issued on Sunday by the spokesperson, Air Commodore, Edward Gabkwet, said there was no truth in the report.
While describing it as false and mischievous, Gabkwet noted that the report was undoubtedly designed to cast aspersion on the good image of the troops and the service.
He added 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.
“The attention of the NAF has been drawn to news reports circulating on some media platforms alleging that the NAF, through one of its personnel, paid N20 million to armed bandits operating in Jibia Local Government Area of Katsina State in exchange for anti-aircraft gun allegedly seized.
“The report also stated that the reason for 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 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 Northwest as well as other theatres of operation across the country.
“Indeed, as recent as October 12, 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 Local Government Area, known for its high incidents 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 – 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,” the statement reads.