Many of us heaved a sigh of relief when the Nigerian Air Force came out to say there was no truth that Boko Haram shot down its missing Alpha jet last week.
The Nigerian Air Force in a statement, dismissed the claim in a video by Boko Haram where the terrorist group said it shot down the missing jet.
Boko Haram had in a viral video showed what appeared to be the downing of an aircraft and some Boko Haram fighters standing close to the parts of a downed aircraft.
Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet, NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, said in a statement on Friday 2nd April 2021, that the video released by Boko Haram was mere propaganda and the video was doctored to give a false impression that the aircraft was shot down.
For instance, he said, “the video clip failed to show the correlation between the sporadic shooting, which even from casual observation was obviously aimed at ground targets, and the sudden mid-air aircraft explosion”.
NAF said Boko Haram was, in its characteristic manner of employing false propaganda, seeking to claim credit for what was obviously an air accident that could have been caused by several other reasons, particularly at a time when the capability of the group to inflict mayhem has been significantly degraded by the Armed Forces of Nigeria.
The Air Force had earlier on Wednesday declared the jet missing during an operation against the terrorists in Borno State.
Then, on Thursday it said the jet may have crashed but the cause of the crash was yet to be ascertained. It also named the two pilots in the jet who were still missing after it was deployed for an operation against Boko Haram in the North East of Nigeria.
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Oladayo Amao flew to Maiduguri on Thursday to be on ground as the search for the missing Alpha Jet continued.
Elements of Boko Haram had released footage showing the downing of what it said was a Nigerian fighter aircraft. The video showed some rag-tag fighters carrying Rocket Propelled Grenade, artillery equipment, the purported corpse of a ‘pilot’ and the debris of an aircraft.
The statement by the Nigerian Air Force did much to calm the nerves of Nigerians, some of who felt that if Boko Haram was capable of bringing down a military jet, then commercial aviation could also be at risk from such terrorists, especially in that region.
Recall too that on Sunday 21st February, 2021, less than two months ago, Nigeria was thrown into mourning following the crash of Nigeria Air Force’s Beechcraft KingAir B350i (NAF 201), in which all the 7 air force men on board were killed. The aircraft was scheduled to conduct surveillance missions over Niger State and its environs, in connection with the concerted efforts to secure the release of the students/staff abducted from the Government Science College Kagara. The place crashed while returning to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja after reporting engine failure on its way to Minna, the Niger State capital.
That Black Sunday and the mourning it generated were attributable to the activities of these terrorists and kidnappers and it is still quite fresh in the memory of Nigerians. Two air force plane crashes resulting in a combined fatality of 9 promising lives could be traumatic. Thinking that such planes could have been civilian, with more people on board, would even be scarier, especially that the two aircraft involved were favourite work horses in their different fields.
The model of Alpha Jet that crashed last week has been in the service of Nigerian Air Force for some time and is very popular world-wide.
The Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet is a light attack jet and advanced jet trainer co-manufactured by Dassault Aviation of France and Dornier Flugzeugwerke of Germany. It was developed specifically to perform trainer and light attack missions, as well as to perform these duties more ideally than the first generation of jet trainers that preceded it.
Both the French Air Force and German Air Force are very fond of the Alpha Jet and have had large numbers in their system, either as a trainer aircraft for light attacks.
The Alpha Jet has been adopted by a number of air forces across the world and has also seen active combat use by some of these operators, including Nigeria.
Epa Ogie Eboigbe, veteran journalist, broadcaster and public affairs specialist writes on, and analyses current and historical issues with a ‘wise pen’.