16 January 2014

Nigeria: How I Escaped the Air Force Bombs - - Sen Ndume


THE Chairman Senate Committee on MDGs and Senator representing Southern Borno Senatorial District, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume narrowly escaped death last Saturday when a fighter jet sighted his convoy and mistook it for insurgents operating in the Pulka area of Gwoza Local Government Area of Borno State. The senator escaped by the whiskers to tell his story. Excerpts:

What really happened?

As usual when I come to town I tried to take my time to visit my constituency. As I arrived I notified the Nigerian Army to give me a detachment for security purposes and I equally notified the Police and they gave me a detachment for security to move to those areas.

Unfortunately, at exactly 2:10pm, I was in Pulka waiting to go to Gwoza to deliver a letter to my Emir for his upgrade from second class to first class and we agreed that the other stakeholders in Gwoza would meet me in Pulka and from there we would move.

Just as we moved from Pulka, I heard explosions. Initially I thought it was Boko Haram that planted bomb on the road because I passed a culvert. In fact, myself and others in the car were saying it was Boko Haram because we suspected people that were waving us by the roadside, we thought they were the ones that detonated the explosives.

So, when we stopped and the situation calmed down and the soldiers that were escorting me came down, they now said 'Oga it is from the Air force', so, let's quickly run somewhere for cover and we ran to the military base in Pulka.

We were inside Pulka, the incident happened inside Pulka. When we went to the base, the officer there tried to establish communication but it was not possible and for 15 minutes again the Air Force jet was patrolling that area.

In fact, as far as I am concerned, we were lucky, we are alive but I truly want to believe that it was an operational blunder.

But even if it was operational problem, I think they did not handle it well, because you don't just see a convoy on a Federal Highway and you begin to throw bombs.

I don't want to assume anything for now, but I have talked to the Chief of Army staff, I have sent a text to the Chief of Air staff, I have talked to the Air Force commander here in Maiduguri.

Unfortunately, the fighter jet did not came from Maiduguri, I think it is from Yola.

So, when I get back to Abuja, I will still do some investigation but I think, I should clarify this with you because the news is going round. It is true that my convoy was bombed, it was not bombed by Boko Haram but Air Force and it is true that, nobody lost his life.

Do you think you were a target?

No, actually no, I do not think so. Well, you get scared sometimes, but I am a strong believer that nobody can kill me or take my life except God.

My family was very devastated actually, some of my friends were also devastated when I was telling them, and they said, 'you are very stubborn', well. I told them it was not stubbornness, but it is just an issue of fate.

So I am a strong believer that if I am to live for sixty more years nobody can take it before that time.

What do you think could have been responsible for the spate of operational blunders?

Well, I think one is professionalism and secondly there is no true coordination between the security forces; the Air Force, Nigerian Army, the Police, SSS and others. I think they are not well coordinated in this struggle or fight against terrorism, because I was thinking that, for example, there is supposed to be operational intelligence in Pulka itself.

Immediately I got into Pulka there should have been intelligence report that, the Senator has arrived this place and it seemed they have just stopped over and are trying to go to Gwoza. And in fact, that piece of information would now be passed to the base there and the base, I stopped over greeted them before I got to 'Bayan Dutse'. The convoy passed, and they have a station there, and I stopped in Ngoshe, and even talked to the platoon commander there, he is somebody from Akwa Ibom.

We exchanged phone numbers and I said I am going to Gwoza, he was even saying that I should be careful because there are Boko Haram in Gwoza that they attacked a place.

So, would I just because I want to stay alive leave those my people that are dying by the day? And I cannot go to even condole or sympathize with them? You know, it is not possible.

How many security operatives were with you when this happened?

I think seven military personnel, five policemen and the civilian JTF, I think were also up to five in a gulf car.

With what happened to you; would you now say that most of the operations undertaken by the security operatives are full of blunders?

Sorry, let me say that, I don't want to start accusing the military but actually there are operational lapses like what happened to me.

And at the same time again there are very good officers that are doing excellently well in the operations. I hope that this incident would help them take corrective measures.

If they need to inform us politicians that please don't move until you get our clearance, we would make sure we get their clearance before moving anywhere around these difficult places.

If the bomb had hit your car and killed you what do you think the Army have said?

(laughs), I am sorry, if that had happened and I died there would be serious commotion and a lot of things would be said because I would not be there to defend myself.

People would just say that I was killed by gunmen. Nobody would say that this is what exactly happened.

We didn't bomb Sen Ndume -- Nigerian Air Force

A statement by Commodore Yusuf Anas said: "The attention of the NAF has been drawn to reports in some media houses which allegedly said its aircraft targeted and bombed Senator Ali Ndume's convoy on Saturday, January 11, 2014.

"The reports misquoted the Director of Information as having said the fighter jets mistakenly fired on the Senator's convoy. For the avoidance of doubt, NAF aircraft did not target Senator Ndume's convoy as alleged. It is public knowledge that Military Operations in the North East particularly in Borno State are ongoing.

"The NAF is constantly involved with the Nigerian Army and other security agencies in a coordinated manner aimed at defeating the Boko Haram terrorists. NAF has well trained pilots who would not conduct operational missions based on speculation or mistaken identity."

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