A rather startling report by the Wall Street Journal has revealed how the Nigerian Air Force coordinated ransom payments to armed bandits in exchange for an anti-aircraft gun seized from the Nigerian Army.
According to the report, a Nigerian Air Force official paid N20 million to bandits in Rugu Forest in a bid to secure President Muhammadu Buhari from being the victim of insecurity that has escalated since the beginning of his regime.
The deal was brokered when the military realised that it would be too risky to leave the weapon in the hands of violent criminals operating in an area the presidential jet would fly over.
However, the report had not stated the period the deal was made nor when the presidential trip was planned. President Buhari had visited his hometown at least twice in 2021. He had travelled home on January 29 and on July 14.
The rugged, lawless jungle that covers parts of Kaduna, Zamfara and the president’s home state of Katsina has served as a vast haven for bandits terrorising Nigeria’s northwestern communities. A large portion of kidnapping plots emanates or terminates in or around the forest, security agencies have previously warned.
A part of the report reads: “The mission to buy back the antiaircraft gun began with a handoff from a high-ranking air force intelligence officer in the capital Abuja: a black zip-up bag he said was full of 20 million Nigerian naira.”
The gun truck with 12.7 calibre anti-aircraft fire was reportedly disassembled and transported back to the military on motorbikes after the deal was concluded.
SaharaReporters had earlier reported plans by the president to visit his hometown this weekend.
According to presidential sources, the President wants to go to his hometown, just to get some rest.
“He's departing for Daura this weekend for home rest. He just wants to go and rest. He will return next week,” one of the sources told SaharaReporters on Wednesday.
However, the trip was later cancelled.
It is not clear why the Nigerian military opted to settle the bandits with the said amount. However, it may not be unconnected to the bandits' strikes against the military.
Gunmen in August invaded the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) and the handling of security by the Muhammadu Buhari-led government.
Gunmen had invaded the Afaka barracks of the academy around 1 am, killing two soldiers identified as Lieutenant Commodore Wulah and Flight Lieutenant Okoronwo.
They also abducted Major Stephen Dantong and demanded a ransom of N200 million.