- Fed Govt should say something on the alleged arrest of helicopter feeding bandits
There shouldn’t have been any need to prompt the authorities to clarify the recent reported arrest of a helicopter for allegedly delivering arms and foodstuff to bandits in some northern states. Increasing insecurity across the country demanded a swift investigation by the authorities to demonstrate seriousness about tackling the country’s security crisis.
Curiously, the Federal Government, which has responsibility for security, appears to be treating the issue of the mysterious helicopter lightly. The government has been puzzlingly silent on the matter, apparently ignoring public concern about the development. Ostrich policy in this case is suspicious. It calls into question the government’s expressed determination to find a solution to the security problem. Also, it discourages public confidence in the government’s effort to tackle insecurity.
It is commendable that the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), a visible northern political and cultural group, has drawn the government’s attention to the issue twice, within a week, saying, “This is not a matter that can be swept under the carpet if we are serious about fighting insecurity in Nigeria.”
ACF said, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Emmanuel Yawe: “Niger State, which is said to be the area of operation of the helicopter shares a boundary with the Federal Capital Territory and has been invaded and terrorised and is on the verge of being overrun by bandits of late…Silence in these circumstances is nothing short of conspiracy and betrayal of public trust.”
Indeed, it is worrying that the government has not responded to the group’s publicised call for “an open, immediate and transparent investigation into the wild and wide allegations that a helicopter was dropping weapons, foodstuff and other daily needs of the bandits, particularly in Niger State.” The voice was loud and clear. The government should not pretend that it didn’t hear or understand.
Notably, some online media had reported that the mysterious helicopter belonged to a former military head of state, Abdulsalami Abubakar. But the retired army general said the information was “false, unfounded.” ”This kind of fake news has the potential of aggravating the already tense security situation in the country and should not be condoned,” his media aide said, in a statement, adding that Nigerians should “be careful with the kind of information they dish out and share on social media.”
The situation is confusing. This is why the government should provide clarification. Residents of Kagara in the Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State, for instance, had claimed sighting a helicopter supplying arms and food to bandits terrorising the area. Is this true? Who owns the helicopter? What is the source of the deliveries? These are important questions that demand urgent answers.
It is noteworthy that when the Federal Government banned flights over Zamfara State in March, to check the activities of bandits and kidnappers, ACF chairman Audu Ogbe had suggested that the ban be extended to Borno, Taraba, Benue and Yobe “where there were rumours that arms, foodstuffs and other supplies were being dropped for bandits by a mysterious helicopter.”
Also, it is worth mentioning that, in August 2019, a suspected bandit, 20-year-old Aliu Musa, arrested by the police in Katsina State, told journalists how helicopters brought arms to bandits at the Dinya forest in Kankara Local Government Area of the state.
The recurring stories about helicopters making deliveries to criminals in the north demand the government’s attention. This year, President Muhammadu Buhari dramatically directed security operatives “to shoot anyone seen with dangerous weapons like AK-47, on sight, in as much as the person is not a security operative.” If helicopters are delivering arms to bandits under the noses of security operatives, it makes nonsense of the president’s order.
If, indeed, a helicopter was arrested for allegedly making deliveries to bandits, the government should provide illuminating details of the case without further delay. If there was no such arrest, the government should say so. The authorities shouldn’t fuel public speculation by their silence.