Rann Bombing: ‘We’ve Nothing to Hide, Says Air Force

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• Report’s outcome won’t be swept under the carpet

By Paul Obi in Abuja

As Nigerians await the outcome of the report on the accidental bombing of Rann, an Internally Displayed Persons (IDPs) location in Borno State, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) at the weekend maintained that it had nothing to hide from the public about the incident.

The assurance came on the heels of speculations and worries over the decision of the NAF’s top hierarchy and the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) to maintain sealed lips months after the Rann bombing report was submitted.

Speaking with journalists in Abuja, NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Olatokunbo Adesanya, called on Nigerians to be patient in awaiting the outcome of the findings of the panel of enquiry set up to unravel the circumstances surrounding the accidental bombing of the IDPs camp.

Adesanya said: “We are aware of the interests the matter has generated within and outside the country. A Board of Enquiry has been set up to determine what happened, who are those involved, what led to the accident and how do we prevent a recurrence.

“We are pleading with Nigerians to be patience with NAF so that the Board of Enquiry will do its assignment diligently. And don’t forget that some of the people involved, victims or their relatives, may be people who could not speak English. So a thorough job has to be done.

“And again, remember the NAF for the past seven years has been involved in the campaign against the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east without any accident of such magnitude.

“I, for instance, have lost some of my students in Jaji, some of my course mates have died and even senior officers in the course of fighting and defending the country and the people.

“To us it is traumatising, because the chance is 50/50 whenever you climb an aircraft, you never can tell maybe that will be your last outing, so it is traumatising to us when the people you set out to protect or defend become victims of your action, either by acts of commission or omission.

“So that is why we are saying that at this period, it will do us more good to be encouraged by our many victories and successes in the past seven years, than judging us by our mistakes or shortcomings. Remember there is no human institution that is perfect, therefore the NAF cannot be an exception.”

He further informed journalists that NAF has “acquired more aircraft fitted with latest technology to undertake various clearance operations against Boko Haram” adding that,  “besides training over 6,000 personnel in various areas, the aircrafts could fight all through the night, during rain and all day.”

Adesanya contended that “for now, Boko Haram has been so decimated that they could not move freely as before or hoist their flags on any territory belonging to Nigeria, as NAF is committed to the on-going clearance operations and flushing out remnants of the insurgent group.”

He maintained that under the leadership of the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Abubakar Sadiq, the air force has improved tremendously. “The welfare of NAF personnel as well as the IDPs;  between 1964 and 2015 only 45 per cent of personnel have accommodation, but in the past two years the percentage has risen to 63.”

The NAF spokesperson explained that “while a number of security dogs were acquired by NAF to detect explosive and drugs, the NAF has carried out medical treatments of various categories free of charge at different IDPs Camps across the country supported with relief materials worth millions of naira.”

Adesanya told journalists that besides fighting insurgency in the North East, “NAF Is also involved in Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) operations in the South-south and parts of South-west on oil installations and facilities, and against cattle rustling in the North-west. 

He also debunked allegations of rivalry among military officers within the three services, made up of army, navy and air force, stressing that, “all the armed forces operate together to achieve common goals and objectives and there was no way they could deviate from their ethos because their duties and functions are intricately linked.”