Villagers of Chukuba community of Shiroro Local Government Area in Niger State, have been compelled to evacuate their homes and seek refuge in nearby settlements such as Erena, Zumba, and Gwada. This mass displacement was triggered by the crash of a Nigerian Air Force (NAF) helicopter within their locality.
In a dialogue with the press in Minna on Monday, Alhaji Akilu Ishaku, the Chairman of Shiroro Local Government, shared the distressing account. He conveyed that the distressing news of the helicopter crash had been relayed to him by security personnel stationed in the area. He also confirmed receiving the information from the Village Head of Galkogo and other community stakeholders.
“As the chief security officer of Shiroro Local Government, I have received reports of an aircraft crash, but the report did not state exactly who the aircraft belongs to.
“The name of the village where the crash happened is Badna village under Kwaki Chukuba ward.
“The people claimed they saw flame from a distance and saw that it was a helicopter that was on fire,” he said.
Ishaku revealed that the villagers out of fear sought refuge in the nearby villages of Erana, Zumba, and Gwada, where safety seemed more guaranteed.
He disclosed that the ill-fated aircraft had embarked on a journey from Zungeru Primary School, bound for Kaduna but was later discovered to have crashed in a village in Shiroro LGA of Niger.
The Nigerian Air Force, in an official statement, clarified that the aircraft was engaged in a mission of casualty evacuation when the crash happened.
The statement said “a Mi-171 helicopter on a casualty evacuation mission crashed at about 1:00 p.m. at Chukuba village in Niger.
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 Sunday ambush.
Meanwhile, the 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.
While addressing questions 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.”
In the meantime, Niger state Governor, Rt. Hon. Mohammed Bago visited the Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, in Abuja, to solicit more support in combating and eliminating 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.”