The Federal Government on Monday described report that the Nigerian Air Force paid N20 million to bandits in exchange for anti-aircraft gun seized by the bandits as fake news.
The Wall Street Journal had reported on Sunday that masked men emerged from the forest on motorbikes, surrounding a young intelligence officer clutching a cash-filled bag.
It said the ransom, nearly $50,000 in crisp Nigerian bank notes, wasn’t for a person, but to retrieve a weapon that directly threatened the country’s president.
The journal reports that a kidnapping gang encamped in Nigeria’s Rugu forest had seized an antiaircraft gun in a clash with a military unit.
That posed a threat to President Muhammadu Buhari, who had been planning to fly to his hometown about 80 miles away, and the government needed to buy it back.
But Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, in an interview, said with the recent notable successes recorded by the military on insecurity, he was amused by a story that the Nigerian Air Force paid N20 million to bribe bandits so that they would not bring down the president’s aircraft.
“Fortunately, the Air Force immediately debunked this because this exposes their ignorance. Between Zamfara, Katsina, parts of Kaduna and Niger states, there are about 150 bandit camps. Who then was the money given to?
We didn’t pay N20m to bandits in exchange for anti-aircraft gun – NAF
“It does not make any sense and it is because they do not understand how bandits operate that is why they can peddle that kind of fake news,’’ he said.
Mohammed said with the improved security situation in the North-East and North-Central Zones the nation would experience improved food security.
“If you observe what is happening of recent, you can see heightened activities in the agricultural area.
“This is because of the superior fire power of the military which is now making it possible for people to go to their farms, especially in the North East. They have been able to put the criminals at bay,’’ he said.
The minister gave an assurance that the success of the military against terrorists and bandits would be sustained.
He, therefore, solicited the cooperation and support of Nigerians for the sustenance of the military action.