Terrorists claim responsibility for Jet crash; NAF Investigates
Terrorists have claimed responsibility for the Monday’s surveillance helicopter crash in Badna, Chukuba ward of Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State.
The Nigeria Air Force had said its MI-171 helicopter on a casualty evacuation mission crashed on Monday near Chukuba village in Niger State and that investigation had commenced to determine the probable cause of the incident.
But terrorists, in a two-minute-and-seventeen-second video, on Tuesday claimed they brought down the jet using AK47 rifle.
The narrator in the video, who spoke in Hausa, said they belonged to Dogo Gide group, one of the notorious bandits that had terrorised parts of Niger State, causing deaths of many farmers and security operatives.
Daily Trust had reported the killings of at least 20 soldiers in an ambush by bandits along the Zungeru-Tegina Road on Sunday.
Sources said that 53 bandits were also killed during the gun duel.
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Hassan Abubakar, yesterday cleared air on helicopters’ crashes, citing seasonal challenges which are weather conditions.
He spoke in his office at NAF headquarters, Abuja, when Niger State governor, Umar Bago, paid him a condolence visit over the killing of soldiers in the state.
He said, “On our own parts, we are not folding our arms, we are just living with the challenges. The ideal thing is to strive for zero incident and accident in any operational environment.
“We are striving for that. It is virtually impossible to achieve but then, you strive for it, so that at the end of the day, you minimise whatever happens. Or when it happens, the effect is significantly abated.
“We are putting a lot of initiatives in place to check this. For example, we have adopted the safety management systems in all our operations. We have also adopted operational risk management procedures among others. Going forward, we are striving to achieve zero incidents in all our operations.
“We also have other challenges which are seasonal. For example, the rain has come and there is route cloud, and this hampers what we can see, especially in terms of our strike capabilities.
“Also, when the harmattan comes, it also has effects on our operations. These are challenges we live with and we hope that sometimes you understand when our operations are hampered or impeded by some of these challenges.”
Abubakar said as long as they operate and fly in order to degrade the enemies, incidents or accidents cannot be ruled out, adding that the important thing is to ensure the problem is reduced to the barest minimum.
He assured that the Nigerian Air Force and the Armed Forces of Nigeria will remain committed, dedicated and undaunted in their efforts to eradicate security challenges perpetrated by these non-state actors.
“The fact is that as long as we operate, fly airplanes, there would be incidents and accidents. In fact, the volume of incidents and accidents is directly proportional to the rate of operations,” he added.
Responding, Governor Bago appealed to NAF not to be tired of fighting insurgents, urging the air chief to send some detachment and some fighter planes to Minna airport for quick interference when the enemies are advancing.
The governor, who also commiserated with the military high command for losing some land troops to the enemies, promised NAF that the state government was ready to provide accommodation for the air force personnel in Minna close to the airport, saying they need the military protection in the state.
“Your deployment of both fighter jets and UAVs have been very apt and helpful to the ground troops and our own local vigilantes. But like Oliver Twist, we need more.
“I have come here to say Minna airport was created as a backup for Abuja airport and we have the longest runways in Nigeria. We’re calling on you to please send some detachment and some fighter planes to Minna, so that we can have more rapid responses from when they are very close instead of flying from either Kainji or Kaduna.
“Let me at this juncture say thank you for giving us this time, and to say that Niger State government will support you anywhere you are. We are happy with what you’re doing and we’re behind you and we will support you.
“Our people have also asked me to tell you that we can actually give you accommodation if you can bring people. We will provide accommodation that are very close to airport in Minna to come and stay in Minna because we need your protection.” Bago told air chief during the meeting.