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NAF’s helicopter crash: Villagers flee communities
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NAF’s helicopter crash: Villagers flee communities

Residents of Chukuba communities  in Shiroro Local Government Area, LGA, of Niger State, where MI 171 Airforce Helicopter crashed Monday are fleeing the villages in drove, following heavy deployment of troop

  • PublishedAugust 16, 2023

Residents of Chukuba communities  in Shiroro Local Government Area, LGA, of Niger State, where MI 171 Airforce Helicopter crashed Monday are fleeing the villages in drove, following heavy deployment of troop and equipment by the army.

Recall that the MI 171 Helicopter carrying casualties of bandits’ ambush of Soldiers in Zenguru, Wushishi LGA of the state, crashed in Chukuba, Shiroro LGA.

No fewer than 21 soldiers and officers were reportedly killed, while over 50 bandits were also eliminated in the in the Sunday ambush.The fleeing villagers who are predominantly, farmers and fishermen are said to be trooping to the neighbouring villages of Erena, Gwada and Zumba for safety.

Chairman of Shiroro LGA, Akilu Ishaku, told Journalists that most residents of the communities were fleeing the area for safety and resettling in Erena, Zumba, and Gwada villages, saying “I received the information of the crash from the security operatives in the area, the village Head of Galkogo, and other stakeholders in the area where the incident occurred. But the report did not state exactly who the aircraft belonged to. The name of the village where the crash happened is Badna village under Kwaki Chukuba ward. The villagers claimed they saw flame from a distance and saw that it was a helicopter that was on fire.”

Sources in the area informed newsmen that heavy military equipment and troop are now being deployed to the troubled communities of both Zungeru in Wushishi and Shiroro LGAs of the state.

The heavy presence of military personnel in these areas has created panic in the communities forcing the villagers to flee to safer areas and LGAs in the state.

“With this development, the farmers have again abandoned their ancestral homes to settle in strange lands where they cannot farm or fish. The implication is that this will be a serious threat to farming and expected bumper harvest from the area. The farmers and fishermen have vowed not to return to their villages without concrete assurances from government that they will be saved”, one of the fleeing villager, Abubakar Kuta said.

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Meanwhile, Nigerian Army yesterday confirmed that some soldiers were killed by bandits in an ambush on Sunday night during an operation by troops to stop bandits’ attacks on communities in the area.

Responding to inquiries on the incident, the Director, Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu said, “I can confirm that there was an incident in Wushishi LG of Niger State. Our gallant patriots paid the supreme price when they ran into an ambush by insurgents.

“They were courageous till the end. They stood their ground and defended our great country with their lives. The focus now is how to console and bring respite to those they left behind.

“Sadly, the incident occurred while the Chief of Army Staff is on operational tour of the North West Operations theatre for on the spot assessment and reinvigoration of ongoing operations.

“He has currently headed to the affected formation to encourage the troops. This is my response to Correspondents’ inquiries on the Niger incident.”

Meantime, Governor Mohammed Bago of the state has visited the Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, in Abuja, to solicit his full support towards eliminating the bandits from the state.

He appreciated the CDS, General Christopher Musa on the efforts, saying, “Niger State is surrounded by water bodies which makes the State vulnerable to security challenges and we want you to do more to help us out.”

Responding, General Musa reassured Governor Bago, saying “We acknowledged the strategic nature of Niger State and the Armed Forces will do its possible best to ensure that citizens go about living normal lives free from attacks soon.”

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Also yesterday, the governor visited the Nigerian Airforce headquarters, Abuja to plead for the deployment of more fighter aircrafts to the state to tackle banditry/terrorism which is getting out of hand.

The governor said, among others, “We came to commiserate with you on the death of your men and soldiers during the crash that occurred two days ago at Wushishi. Secondly to thank you very much for what you have been doing for the people of Niger state in terms of helping us combat banditry, terrorism, kidnapping and insecurity in general.

“Thirdly, we want to seek your support for the deployment of fighter jets and UAVs to Minna. The Minna airport has the longest runway in the country because it was built as a back up to the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja. So the facilities are there for deployment of more fighter aircraft to tackle these criminal elements. Niger State government will support you Nigerian Airforce, any where you want to base. Our people said I should tell you, (Chief of Air Staff) that we are ready to provide accommodation even if you want to stay at the Minna airport vicinity for operational purposes”.

Responding, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Hassan Abubakar, among others, said “The NAF and the Armed Forces of Nigeria will remain undaunted in all our operations to flush out these bandits/terrorists and other criminal elements. We will continue through operation Hadarin Daji and operation Whirl Punch.

“We will intensify our operations to bring to the barest minimum, the activities of these criminal elements and security challenges in these areas

Regarding the request for the NAF to build a base at Minna Airport and send more fight aircraft/personnel for more effective and proactive efforts in dealing in the secirity challenges, Air Marshal Abubakar said, “We will strongly look into operating from Minna airport”.

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“Operating from Minna airport will help our air componenrs of Operation Hadarin Daji and Operation Whirl Punch, reduce cost and ensure faster deployments to contain security challenges in Niger state and other states in the North West.

Tinubu mourns 

Reacting to the death of the soldiers, President Bola Tinubu said the soldiers were very courageous describing them as men who did not consider the perils and dangers of their national duty as paramount to their sacred mandate of ensuring that their fellow countrymen and women can live in peace.

In a statement President Tinubu personally signed “The tragic loss of our gallant officers and soldiers in a helicopter crash at Chukuba Village near Shiroro, Niger State, yesterday, brought immense sadness to me.

“These officers and men were answering the call of duty while on an evacuation mission. In their dedicated service to our beloved country, they paid the ultimate price.

While we mourn their untimely departure, we will forever remember them, not just as servicemen, but as national heroes who gave their all for the peace and security of our country. They will always be remembered as courageous men who did not consider the perils and dangers of their national duty as paramount to their sacred mandate of ensuring that their fellow countrymen and women can live in peace.

“We salute their sacrifice, devotion and loyalty to our dear nation – the nation they loved and served to the end.

“On behalf of a grateful nation, I extend my condolences to their families, the Chief of Defence Staff, the Chief of Air Staff, the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Naval Staff, and the entire Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

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