The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has denied that it is involved in human rights abuses during the herdsmen/farmers clashes in Numan general area of Adamawa as alleged by the Amnesty International.
NAF, in a statement by its Spokesman, Air Vice Marshal Olatokunbo Adesanya, described the entire allegations by the international body as “lies.’’
Adesanya explained that on Dec. 4, 2017, NAF was called in by the GOC 3 Division to provide support to troops in curtailing farmers/herdsmen crisis in Numan, Adamawa.
According to him, the support is in form of “show of force low-level flights.’’
“To set the records straight, in the early hours of Dec. 4, 2017, a NAF Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) platform departed Maiduguri to conduct ISR over Numan general area.
“This was in response to a request by the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 3 Armoured Division of the Nigerian Army, following reports of clashes around that location.
“ Hundreds of people, mostly dressed in black attires, and who appeared armed, were sighted ransacking and setting a village on fire.
“ In addition, the hoodlums set large portions of farmlands ablaze.
“Furthermore, some of the men were seen guiding livestock out of the village.
“Consequently, a NAF aircraft was called in to support the Nigerian Army and other relevant security agencies through ‘show of force’ low-level flights,’’ Adesanya said
He explained that the action of the NAF was aimed at dispersing the huge crowd and thereby stopping the ongoing carnage.
The spokesman, however, added that after several low passes, the crowd was undeterred and refused to disperse.
“Rather, the assailants started firing shots at the aircraft and continued with their dastardly act of burning houses within the settlement.’’
According to him, the aircraft, therefore has to fire shots ahead of the rampaging crowd when it became obvious that they were heading for Numan to inflict further damage.
The intervention, he said made the hoodlums to scatter and fled to a nearby bridge.
“Other low passes were conducted by NAF aircraft over the area to prevent the regrouping of the hoodlums around Numan and other villages.
Adesanya further explained that the hoodlums had set several villages on fire and much destruction had taken place before the arrival of NAF aircraft.
“Nevertheless, the intervention of the NAF proved decisive in putting an end to the hoodlums’ rampaging activities,’’ he said.
Adesanya said it was unfortunate that an organisation of the “stature of Amnesty International would believe a ridiculous story that the pilot of an aircraft flying at a high speed would be able to distinguish between a herdsman and a local farmer before deciding which one to bomb.”
“ Indeed, at the time the NAF intervened in the crisis around Numan on Dec. 4, 2017, there were no two distinguishable groups clashing.
“Rather, only one group of hoodlums was seen unleashing mayhem on villages near Numan.
“At no time did the NAF Spokesman identify the hoodlums as herdsmen, as the pilots could not have possibly determined the identities of the hoodlums from thousands of feet in the air.
“It is significant to note that without the timely intervention of the NAF, nothing would have stopped the huge mass of hoodlums from burning down Numan, where they were obviously heading.
“ Had they succeeded, they would have killed several individuals and burnt or destroyed more properties.
“It is better imagined how many more lives would have been lost without the timely and wise intervention of the NAF.
“It is the responsibility of the NAF to defend Nigerian lives and the NAF could not have simply watched while lives were being taken and properties destroyed.
“ It is regrettable that Amnesty International never made any attempt to find out NAF’s account of the events of the said date before making its allegations.
“The report by Amnesty International is therefore deemed to be unfair, one-sided and apparently aimed at embarrassing the NAF.’’
He described the NAF as “a highly professional organisation, which places high value on respect for human rights.’’