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NAF denies paying bandits N20m to avert bombing Buhari’s plane

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The Nigerian Air Force has reportedly paid bandits a N20m ransom to avoid bombing President Buhari’s plane, according a report by the Wall Street Journal.

But NAF denied such report, saying it could be a part of a campaign to further the cause of insecurity in Nigeria by criminal elements.

The report quoted a military source as saying a coordinated ransom payment was made to armed bandits in exchange for an anti-aircraft gun seized from the Nigerian Army.

This was said to be in a desperate deal that was brokered as President Muhammadu Buhari was planning a trip to Katsina.

The Wall Street Journal said that N20 million was delivered to the bandits in the Rugu Forest by a Nigerian Air Force official, who leaked details of the operation under anonymity because the military realised that it would be too risky to leave the weapon in the hands of violent criminals operating in an area the presidential jet would fly over.

The rugged, lawless jungle that covers parts of Kaduna, Zamfara and the President’s home state of Katsina has served as a vast haven for bandits terrorising Nigeria’s northwestern communities.

A large portion of kidnapping plots emanates or terminates in or around the forest, security agencies have previously warned.

“The mission to buy back the antiaircraft gun began with a handoff from a high-ranking air force intelligence officer in the capital Abuja: a black zip-up bag he said was full of 20 million Nigerian naira,” the paper reported, after stating that such military hardware in the hands of bandits “posed a threat to President Muhammadu Buhari, who had been planning to fly to his hometown about 80 miles away.”

It was reported that the gun truck with 12.7 caliber anti-aircraft fire was disassembled and transported back to the military on motorbikes after the deal was concluded.

However, the journal did not specify when the deal was brokered or the presidential trip that was planned.

President Buhari has been in his hometown at least twice this year that his office disclosed to the public. The first trip was in late January and another in July.

But spokesperson for the air force, Edward Gabkwet, in a statement, said there was no basis to pay bandits or any criminal elements.

“The NAF wishes to categorically state that there is absolutely no iota of truth in the spurious allegation that was undoubtedly designed to cast aspersions on the good image of the Service,” the statement read.

“The said report is totally false. It should therefore be taken as fake news and disregarded. Indeed, we ordinarily would not have responded to such baseless and utterly illogical allegation but for the need to set the record straight as well as reaffirm the NAF’s unflinching commitment to decisively dealing with the armed bandits and all other criminal elements in the country in partnership with other services of the Armed Forces and other security agencies.

“For the avoidance of doubt, it must be stated that there is no basis for the NAF to pay bandits or any criminal elements that it has continued to attack and decimate in Katsina State, other parts of the North-West as well as other theatres of operation in the country.

“Indeed, as recent as October 12, 2021, NAF aircraft conducted five missions in the Jibia general area and engaged targets with rockets and cannons at Bala Wuta bandits’ locations in Kadaoji.

“Similar successes were recorded at Fakai Dutsin Anfare, an area in Jibia LGA known for its high incidences of bandits’ activities. The false reportage therefore, begs the question as to why the NAF would negotiate for a weapon allegedly seized and still carry out air interdiction missions on the same bandits and their strongholds.

“The NAF is of the view that, this latest false report could be a part of a campaign to further the cause of insecurity in Nigeria by elements who see the NAF as a threat following series of successful exploits in operations against criminal gangs.

“Perhaps, this provides an avenue for the NAF to yet again appeal to members of the media, both local and international, as well as social media, to be circumspect in their reportage and endeavour to always verify their facts before going public. The public is enjoined to disregard the falsehood emanating from some sections of the social and mainstream media.

“The NAF also uses this opportunity to call on citizens to continue to cooperate with security agencies as efforts are ongoing to rid the entire Nation of criminals and their activities.

“On our part, NAF, as a professional and disciplined force, will not in any way be discouraged from carrying out its mandate to rid the entire North-West Nigeria of banditry and other forms of criminality. We remain resolute in performing our function and will continue to work in synergy with other sister Services and security agencies to rid the country of all criminal elements.”

Although the Federal Government claimed combat victories against armed bandits, several military bases have been sacked by the violent criminals dreaded largely for their abduction of schoolchildren and prominent personalities, including politicians and emirs.

In September 2021, a forward operating base crucial to the military campaign against banditry was raided in Zamfara, leaving at least 12 officers killed.

The bandits also seized military equipment when they captured the base in Dansadau, about 80km south of the capital Gusau, in the September 11 operation.

COVID-19

FG: We have enough COVID vaccines to cover 70% Nigerians

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Nigeria has enough vaccines that can cover over 70 per cent of the country’s population before the end of 2022, Secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, has said.

The SGF said this at the national COVID-19 summit held at Muhammadu Buhari Conference Centre in Abuja, tagged ‘Pushing Through the Last Mile to End the Pandemic and Build Back Better’.

He said, “Nigeria has invested in enough vaccines that can cover over 70 per cent of our population before the end of 2022. These vaccines are safe and efficacious; hence, it is better and safer to be vaccinated against this virus, now.”

He said the summit was to create the opportunity to identify successes, gaps and lessons learnt so far in Nigeria’s national response to the pandemic since March 2020 to date.

He added that the summit is also aimed at developing strategies to actualise the international commitments towards ending COVID-19 before the end of 2022.

“Today, we are here to assess the level of impact of our national response and develop strategies as we push through the last mile to end the pandemic while we build back better,” he said.

The SGF said, “There is no gainsaying that the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria, which was triggered when the index case was confirmed on the 27th of February 2020, precipitated significant disruptions to the healthcare system and socio-economic lives of Nigerians.

​”Due to the evolving dynamics of COVID-19 pandemic with progressive mutations of the virus to more transmissible and deadly variants, the international community has corroborated the insinuation that the pandemic will persist for few more years.

“This understanding has impelled world leaders recently to come to a conclusion that if efforts are not renewed and aggressive measures are not taken, COVID-19 pandemic will continue to ravage humanity well longer than earlier envisaged. Hence, the need to adopt an ambitious (but cautious) agenda to end the COVID-19 pandemic by the year 2022.”

He said the summit is a follow-up towards Nigeria’s commitment to the ambitious global agenda/movement to end the COVID-19 pandemic by 2022 and build back better.

“​Global efforts at ending COVID-19 pandemic are intrinsically linked to the call for nations of the world to take steps towards strengthening their health system and bio-security- which will make for better pandemic preparedness and the ability to respond more robustly and swiftly to future pandemics,” Mustapha said.

 

He asked stakeholders to encourage all eligible persons to get vaccinated and keep observing the necessary preventive COVID-19 measures.

 

 

 

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UK suspends indefinitely visitor visa applications from Nigeria

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The British High Commission said on Sunday that would suspend the processing of visitor visa applications from all red list countries, including Nigeria.

This was announced in a statement issued by the commission, a development comeing hours after the UK added Nigeria to its travel red list as a result of concerns over the Omicron COVID variant.

The UK said the decision on the suspension of processing visitor visa applications in Nigeria would be in effect until the travel ban was lifted.

The statement read in part, “To support the UK Government’s aim to protect public health from COVID-19 and associated variants of concern (VOC), UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) will pause making decisions on visitor visa applications in all red list countries, including Nigeria, until travel restrictions are lifted.

“Visit visas cover travel to the UK for tourism, visiting family and friends, undertaking short-term business activities (for example, attending meetings), undertaking short-term studies (under 6 months), taking part in research or exchange programmes as an academic, medical reasons (for example, receiving private medical treatment).

“If you apply for a visit visa in a red list country and you meet the UK Immigration Rules, your application will be paused. You will not receive a decision on your visit visa application whilst red list travel restrictions remain in place.

“You will not be able to request a refund of your visa fee once you have given your biometrics at a Visa Application Centre (VAC). If you already hold a valid visit visa and are intending to travel to England as a visitor from a red list country, you will not be allowed to enter.

“Separate guidance is available for travellers entering Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Use https://www.gov.uk/uk-border-control and https://www.gov.uk/guidance/red-list-of-countries-and-territories.”

The commission also said visas or entry permits from red list countries would only be issued where there were compelling and compassionate circumstances.

It said, “There are only very limited exemptions to travel and entry requirements for critical workers and medical and compassionate cases. If you have submitted a visit visa application and you do not wish to withdraw, we will continue to hold your application. If you choose to continue with your visa application, you will not receive a decision on your visit visa whilst red list travel restrictions remain in place.”

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JUST IN: Former Army Chief, Gen. Wushishi, dies at 81

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Former Chief of Army Staff, General Mohammed Inuwa Wushishi

The Former Chief of Army Staff, General Mohammed Inuwa Wushishi, is dead.

According to a family source, General Wushishi died at a London Hospital.

General Wushishi was born in 1940 in Wushishi, Headquarters of Wushishi Local Government Area of Niger State.

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He served as the Chief of Army Staff between October 1981 and October 1983, during the Second Republic.

He served in the Nigerian Army in various capacities, including General Officer Commanding, 4 Infantry Division, Nigerian Army, 1976; Commandant, Staff College, Jaji, Dec. 1979.

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