The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, has reiterated the commitment of the Nigerian Air Force to flush out armed bandits and criminals from the North–West.
Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, made this known in a statement on Thursday in Abuja.
Abubakar was quoted as saying this when he conducted one day operational visit to NAF units in Katsina and Zamfara States.
Daramola said the visit was aimed at assessing the progress of ‘Operation Diran Mikiya’, adding that the visit also afforded the CAS the opportunity to ascertain the state of facilities at NAF Base Gusau as well as interact with the troops.
Abubakar urged the troops to conduct themselves professionally and deal “ruthlessly with the armed bandits,” while urging them to respect and protect civilians in their places of deployment.
In Katsina, Air Commodore Ayo Jolasinmi, the Air Task Force, Commander Operation, Diran Mikiya, briefed the CAS on the status of the operation.
The statement quoted the ATF commander as saying that significant successes had been achieved since the operation began on July 31.
Jolasinmi noted that the ATF had flown about 740 hours in 540 surveillance and combat sorties, resulting in the decimation of scores of armed bandit kingpins and their fighters.
He said that NAF had also destroyed several camps and hideouts of bandits with thousands of rustled cattle recovered.
Abubakar commended Jolasinmi and his team for their efforts and urged them to re-strategise in order to more effectively tackle the evolving nature of the threat within the area, while working closely with surface forces and other security agencies.
Daramola said the CAS, who was accompanied by other senior officers from NAF Headquarters, also visited the Katsina State Governor, Aminu Masari, at the Government House Katisna.
The CAS expressed profound appreciation to the Government and good people of Katsina State for the immense support the NAF had enjoyed since Operation Diran Mikiya began.
He pledged the commitment of the Service towards ensuring that the activities of the armed bandits were brought to a complete stop and normalcy restored to the affected areas.
Abubakar informed Governor Masari that he was in Katsina to assess the progress of the Operation with a view to re-strategising for improved results.
He intimated the governor that the NAF was establishing a Forward Operating Base, along with a helicopter landing pad and support facilities, at Birnin Gwari in Kaduna State.
This, he said, would further strengthen NAF’s ability to deal with the armed bandits, while working in synergy with other security agencies.
Responding, Masari appreciated the CAS for the unwavering commitment shown by the NAF and the tremendous contributions made by the Service in dealing with the menace of armed banditry.
He acknowledged the successes recorded since the commencement of Operation Diran Mikiya.
The governor said that over 250 armed bandits had reportedly fled across the border to Niger Republic as a result of NAF air strikes in the months of August and September.
He, however, opined that the recent resurgence of the activities of the armed bandits required the intensification of operations to effectively deal with the criminals.
The governor said on its part, the Katsina government would increase advocacy to limit the involvement of youths in the border areas while continuing to facilitate the provision of useful information to security agencies.
He once more appreciated the efforts of the NAF not just in the North-West but in other theatres of operation across the country.
The CAS also did a tour of the facilities within NAF Base, Gusau, including fuel storage facilities and some buildings that had been repaired after their roofs were blown off by rainstorms earlier in the year.
The statement quoted Sqd.Ldr.Sunkanmi Akinbohun, the Commander 207 Quick Response Group (207 QRG) also encouraged the troops to remain focused on their assignment.