The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) yesterday revealed how Flight Lieutenant Dairo outwitted several bandits and escaped to safety after his Alpha Jet aircraft was shot down by the outlaws.
NAF while confirming that the Alpha Jet aircraft was shot by bandits however disclosed that the pilot ejected from the plane before it crashed.
This is the fourth time a military plane has crashed this year. This May, former chief of Army Staff, Ibrahim Attahiru, was killed in a plane crash in bad weather on an official visit to Kaduna State.
But disclosing how the pilot escaped, the director of public relations and information Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet said the aircraft came under intense enemy fire after returning from a successful air interdiction mission between the boundaries of Zamfara and Kaduna States which led to its crash in Zamfara on July 18, 2021.
He said the incident happened at about 12.45 pm but that no human casualty was recorded.
Gabkwet said the flight lieutenant, using the cover of darkness and his phone set for navigation, was able to elude several bandits’ strongholds and maneuvered his way to a Nigerian Army Unit, where he was finally rescued.
He said the chief of the air staff, Air Marshal Oladayo Amao, upon receipt of the news of the crash had directed that all efforts must be done to rescue the pilot.
“Accordingly, NAF Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) platforms and helicopter gunships provided close air support to NAF Special Forces and Nigerian Army troops who were able to locate the crash site and the pilot’s parachute, while also combing nearby locations for any sign of the pilot.
“It is gladdening to note that while in hiding, Flight Lieutenant Dairo confirmed that the presence of NAF aircraft within the vicinity of the crash site helped in scaring the bandits who were after him, thus enabling him to find refuge and escape to a safe location.”
“The President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, had recently directed the Armed Forces of Nigeria to do all it takes to flush out criminal elements in Katsina, Zamfara and Kaduna States.
“It is in fulfilment of this directive that the NAF, in conjunction with surface forces, has in the last 2 weeks mounted intensive day and night air interdiction operations against bandits and their hideouts, especially in these 3 states. Through these intensive air operations, hundreds of bandits have been neutralized and several of their hideouts destroyed.” he said
Gabkwet said despite the setback of the Sunday crash, NAF remains committed towards fulfilling Mr President’s mandate as well as other constitutional roles assigned to it.
“The willingness, readiness and tested ability of the NAF remains unshaken and unwavering as it continues to carry out its assigned roles,” he said.
LEADERSHIP can report that the government has increasingly relied on its air force to carry out missions against the bandits.
Zamfara and Kaduna are among the states with high criminal activities including mass abductions of school children and armed robberies.