Fleeing Terrorists, Bandits Regrouping In Kogi, Says Gov Bello

*Wants NAF base established in state

Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State has raised the alarm that fleeing terrorists from the North-east were regrouping in Kogi State.

Following the development, he called on the Nigeria Air Force to establish an air force base in the state in order to combat the insurgents.

Bello’s alarm came as the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Oladayo Amao, said insurgents and bandits had become mobile, moving from one location to another after intense bombardment by the air force.

A statement by the Nigerian Air Force said “the activities of bandits and other criminal elements, who had relocated to the state after military operations in September 2020 at Utu Forest situated between Nasarawa and Kogi States forced them out of their comfort zone.

“Governor Yahaya Bello went further to reveal that bandits fleeing from the intense fire power of the military in the North-east and North-west have regrouped in locations between Lokoja and Kabba/Bunu”.

Governor Bello said “the security situation in these areas has led to the residents of the areas relocating to other parts of the state”.

Bello, therefore, called for the establishment of a Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Base in Kogi State.

He said the establishment of a NAF Base in the state would check the activities of bandits as well as facilitate intelligence gathering against criminal elements, who have established safe haven in some parts of the state.

Governor Bello also disclosed that the state had approached the NAF in 2017 to consider establishing a Forward Operating Base (FOB) at a colonial era airstrip in Zariagi near Lokoja, to which the NAF in 2018 dispatched a reconnaissance team to survey the suitability status of the location for consideration.

The Kogi State chief executive said the need to revisit the matter became necessary in view of the activities of bandits and other criminal elements who have relocated to the state after military operations in September 2020 at Utu Forest situated between Nasarawa and Kogi States forced them out of their comfort zone.

The governor went on to state that considering the threats posed by the criminals, coupled with the strategic importance of the state, the need for the revitalisation of the talks on the establishment of an FOB became necessary.

In his response, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Oladayo Amao, commended Governor Bello for early detection of the activities of bandits and for his efforts at securing Kogi State. He noted that of recent, bandits and other criminal elements had become very mobile.

“Once they come under intense fire in one location, they quickly migrate to another location in search of a safe hiding place”, he said

Amao assured the governor that the mandate by President Muhammadu Buhari that the nation must be rid of all criminal elements remained on course and affirmed that in no distant time, the security situation in Kogi State and environs would take a positive turn.

On the request for the establishment of an FOB, Air Marshal Amao assured the governor that a team would be constituted to review the report submitted in 2018 with a view to reactivating the plan for the establishment of the FOB. According to the CAS, “The fact that an airstrip already exists in the proposed location is an advantage.”

Highlight of the visit included the laying of wreath by Governor Bello at the NAF Memorial Arcade in respect of NAF personnel who paid the supreme price in the course of duty.

The visit was witnessed by branch heads from NAF Headquarters and some members of Kogi State Executive Council.

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