Clarifying Zamfara Bombing Controversy

April 15th, 2019

By Kabiru Umar

Folks conversant with the war against insur­gency and banditry in Nigeria know the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), has firmly positioned itself within the professional context of de­fending the territorial in­tegrity of the country with air power. Rather than un­dermining the efforts of the NAF in the fight against banditry, Zamfara Council of Emirs should immediate­ly stop its curious disinfor­mation and rather appreci­ate the airmen and women, who are tireless in the per­formance of their duty.

As a team, well-meaning Nigerians need to fight to­gether by helping those in the field with useful infor­mation and by checking those in the theater of war so that, together, we will achieve more. It is strange that rather than confronting the real issues, our Council of Emirs in Zamfara resort­ed to an ostrich-like blame game, dragging the NAF into a war it has nothing to do with.

I read with dismay, claims by the Zamfara Council of Emirs that the areas which were bombed as part of the NAF’s Operation DIRAN MIKIYA between April 8 and 11, 2019, were not the hideouts of targeted bandits but the dwellings of inno­cent civilians. I respectfully call on the traditional lead­ers to produce evidence of these claims so that the NAF can be brought to book if found wanting.

The Council of Emirs had told the media that the air strikes hit the wrong targets, were not effective in getting rid of the bandits and has left dwellers in the affected settlements in need of hu­manitarian assistance. It is a known fact that the NAF is a traditionalist, bonded by laws and necessity, restrict­ed by space and vows, guid­ed by orders and customs with endurance and perse­verance – the traditional life of the military and will not just hit targets for the sake of doing so.

The Emirs’ Council should react to insinuations against it and leave the NAF alone. Why is the Council hold­ing Press Conference now? Where were they when the killings was going on?

However, in a press re­lease made available to the media yesterday, the state­ment said it found the alle­gation “ridiculous” because “most of the locations at­tacked are within the Rugu, Sububu and Kagara For­ests general area, which are known armed bandits’ hide­outs that have been attacked in the past, without any out­cry. Besides, the NAF target selection process for air op­erations is particularly rig­orous and methodical in order to ensure proper tar­get identification and there­by prevent strikes on wrong locations”.

The statement further stat­ed that: “the locations at­tacked from 8 to 11 April 2019, were selected based on human intelligence (HUMINT) reports ob­tained from security agen­cies and other government sources, traditional and community leaders as well as reliable, vetted inform­ants.

Furthermore, NAF pi­lots, by training and in line with extant Rules of Engage­ment (ROEs) for the oper­ation, do not attack any lo­cation if it is observed that non-combatants, especial­ly women and children, are present. In such cases, the pilots would rather return to Base with their muni­tions unexpended. Conse­quently, it is inconceivable that the NAF would attack locations where innocent ci­vilians reside.

“In view of this, I find it rather mischievous that an­yone would spread such de­liberate misinformation whilst the Service is doing its best to effectively respond to the challenges facing the good people of Zamfara State and its environs. Rath­er than making such spuri­ous and unsubstantiated al­legations, NAF requests that anyone with evidence to the effect that innocent civilians were targeted by the NAF air strikes should produce such evidence.”

He assured that the NAF will continue to work in syn­ergy with sister agencies to ensure the safety of Nigeri­ans and do all it can to make the Northwest unsafe for criminal elements and en­couraged the emirs or any­one not to drag the Nigeria Air Force into “any unnec­essary controversy based on speculations or outright falsehood”.

We are a team and we must be on the same page to win the war against banditry. The question I ask, is, how can a team reach its poten­tial if it cannot look itself with critical eye? The NAF does not simply train, go to battle, and hope that their plan has worked. A compa­ny does not just merely cre­ate a business plan and stick to it no matter how their en­vironment changes, its rein­vents.

There is always a need to evaluate performance in bat­tle or in business and then retrain based on your as­sessment. It is inclusive, if not indicative to state here that Zamfara has found itself in the eye of the storm, fol­lowing the boom in artisanal gold mining which has laid waste to much of the state’s landscape and increased the crime rate, no thanks to un­coordinated mining and the allure of illegal gold trading. I hope directive by the Fed­eral Government stop min­ing activities in Zamfara is not responsible for all these allegations.
The NAF and Zamfara Council of Emirs should fight together as together is a wonderful place to be.

Umar wrote in from Kaduna

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