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