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Nigerian Air Force Says Report On Payment To Retrieve Anti-Aircraft Not True

The Wall Street Journal had earlier reported the payment of money in exchange for an anti-aircraft gun by a military unit.

The Nigerian Airforce (NAF) on Sunday, Oct. 17, said the report alleging that the Air Force made payment to a terror group in Northwest Nigeria to retrieve an anti-aircraft gun was false. 

The Wall Street Journal on Oct. 16 had reported that nearly $50,000 in crisp Nigerian banknotes was dispatched to retrieve an anti-aircraft gun that directly threatened the Nigerian president.

“A kidnapping gang encamped in Nigeria’s Rugu forest had seized an anti-aircraft gun in a clash with a military unit. That posed a threat to President Muhammadu Buhari, who had been planning to fly to his hometown about 80 miles away, and the government needed to buy it back,” the WSJ said in the report. 

The Nigerian Army uses anti-aircraft guns (AA) also known as Heavy Machine Guns (HMG) of different types, including Soviet-designed NSV and DShk, Chinese-designed W-85, and Type 85 chambered for 12.7 x 108 mm cartridge, usually mounted on pickup trucks (Gun trucks) as an anti-personnel weapon.

The Air Force in a statement by Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet, its spokesperson, stated that its attention was drawn to news reports alleging that the NAF paid the sum of N20 million to an armed group operating in Jibia Local Government Area of Katsina State in exchange for an anti-aircraft gun. 

“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,” Gabkwet said.

The report, he said, should 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.”

The Air Force spokesperson went further to provide a brief on the service operations against armed groups in the region, disclosing that the NAF on Oct. 12 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 Wall Street Journal a few years ago disclosed the payment of three million euros, delivered in two drop-offs and release of five jailed insurgents in exchange for the release of the Chibok schoolgirls, which occurred in two batches in 2016 and 2017. 

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Murtala Abdullahi

Abdullahi Murtala is a researcher and reporter. His expertise is in conflict reporting, climate and environmental justice, and charting the security trends in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region. He founded the Goro Initiative and contributes to dialogues, publications and think-tanks that report on climate change and human security. He tweets via @murtalaibin

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