By Grace Udofia
The Wall Street Journal on Sunday revealed that the Nigerian Air Force struck a shameful deal worth N20 million, as ransom to armed bandits in exchange for an anti-aircraft gun seized from the Nigerian Army.
According to the report, the gun truck with 12.7 caliber anti-aircraft fire was reportedly disassembled and transported back to the military on motorbikes after the deal was concluded.
In what it described as a desperate deal, it explained that the deal was brokered as President Muhammadu Buhari was planning a trip to Katsina, Gazette reported .
It said the N20 million was delivered to the bandits in Rugu Forest by a Nigerian Air Force official, who leaked details of the operation under anonymity, because 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.
“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 paper reported, after stating that such military hardware in the hands of bandits “posed a threat to President Muhammadu Buhari, who had been planning to fly to his hometown about 80 miles away.”
The Wall Street Journal however did not specify when the deal was brokered or the presidential trip that was planned. The president has been in his hometown at least twice this year that his office disclosed to the public. The first trip was in late January and another in July.
Although the Nigerian government has boasted of combat victories against armed bandits, several military bases have been sacked by the violent criminals dreaded largely for their abduction of schoolchildren and prominent personalities, including politicians and monarchs.
Despite President Muhamadu Buhari’s vow to be tough on the bandits and publicly railed against governors negotiating with them, his government has been known to pay ransom to terrorists and other violent criminals as attacks by these groups continue to threaten the peace of the nation.