The Nigerian Air Force, NAF, on Thursday reacted to claims by the Zamfara Council of Chiefs, saying that it had set up a panel to investigate alleged killing of some civilians in Zamfara during raids on bandits’ camps.
NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Ibikunle Daramola, who disclosed this at a news conference in Abuja, said: “As a responsible service, the NAF also wishes to clarify that in all its air strikes in the Northwest, bombs were never used.”
However, Mr Daramola, an air-commodore, said the panel was headed by an Air Vice Marshal which he did not name.
According to him, the panel will work with Zamfara State Government, as well as the state Council of Chiefs and other stakeholders.
News Agency of Nigeria reports that the NAF was reacting to media reports of the alleged killing attributed to the Emir of Bungudu, Alhaji Hassan Attahiru.
The Emir, who spoke on behalf of the Council of Chiefs, released “names” of civilians allegedly killed by the NAF during air raids on bandits’ hideouts conducted on April 9.
Mr Daramola said: “In the light of the allegation by the Zamfara State Council of Chiefs, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, had ordered a high-powered Panel of Inquiry to investigate the veracity or otherwise of the claim.
“’The Panel, which will be headed by an Air Vice Marshal – 2-star general, will work with Zamfara government, State Council of Chiefs and other stakeholders.
“’The Panel will start its investigations from Katsina, the Headquarters of Operation DIRAN MIKYA, before proceeding to Gusau and other relevant locations in Zamfara to properly scrutinise all evidence presented by the Council of Chiefs.
“At the end of the investigation, members of the public will be duly informed.
“As a responsible service, the NAF also wishes to clarify that in all its air strikes in the Northwest, bombs were never used.
“This has been deliberately done in view of the nature of threat, as well as the operational environment, despite the fact that the armed bandits have Anti-Aircraft Gun in their possession.
“The allegation that bombs were used is therefore, not only false but outrightly misleading,’’ he said.
The spokesman said that NAF would not relent in its unwavering commitment to operations aimed at flushing out bandits from Zamfara and its environs, in collaboration with other security agencies.
“’The NAF wishes to restate that it will always be responsible and will not take any action that will jeopardise the safety and security of the people of Zamfara.
“As a professional organization, and in line with our constitutional mandate, we shall not be distracted but ensure that the innocent people of Zamfara, and indeed all Nigerians, are safe and secure to pursue their legitimate aspirations.
“The NAF hereby advocates public support and not condemnation as its personnel continues to make daily sacrifices towards eliminating all forms of threats to the security and indeed the development of our dear country,’’ he said.