15 August, 2011, Sweetcrude, Yenagoa –The headquarters, Mobility Command of the Nigerian Air force yesterday exonerated its men of involvement in the killing of a baker in the Swali suburb of Yenagoa the Bayelsa State while responding to a distress call over armed robbery attack.
However, it said the relevant authoritries were investigations were to establish the circumstances leading to the death of late baker.
It would be recalled that the tragic killing of the baker identified as Paul Wisdom, an indigene of Akwa Ibom, occurred in the early hours of Saturday in the wake of a failed robbery attempt on a bakery.
Although it could not be substantiated some residents had alleged that a Nigerian Air force personnel on guard allegedly fired the shot which killed the baker while responding to the distress.
Reacting to the report, the Nigerian Air force said though the headquarters of its 235 Base Services Group (NAF) is located some distance away from the scene of the robbery attack its men on guard duty were not involved in foiling the robbery attack but had remained vigilant to safeguard lives and property within the Unit’s Area of Responsibility.
The Air force Mobility Command through its Spokesman, Squadron Leader BI Okon, said it was compelled to react to what it described as misleading media report that its personnel killed the late baker.
While reacting to media report (not Vanguard) that tension is brewing in Swali and that workers of the bakery together with some residents of the area have mobilised themselves to storm the Air force Base to demand explanation, the Air force said the story was not only misleading but capable of raising undue sentiments within the Swali community.
Recalling the tragic incident the NAF Spokesman said, “on August 13, 2011, guards on duty at the 235 BSG heard sporadic gunshots around the Swali market area. This was followed by a distress call from one Mr. John Izuegbunam residing at No 3 John Igbi Street that armed robbers were attacking his residence located close to the Unit Headquarters. The Commander of Operation Famou Tangbe was immediately alerted while the Nigerian Air force personnel on duty remained vigilant to safeguard lives and property within the Unit’s Area of Responsibility.
“In the course of carrying out routine checks after hearing the gunshots, members of the Nigerian Police Force who also responded to the distress call were sighted in front of the Bakery gate few metres away from the Unit Headquarters. On arrival at the gate, the Nigerian Air force personnel met the police who pointed to someone lying down on the ground with a gun wound on the head. He was later identified as a staff of the bakery.”
The police, according to the NAF spokesman went with the corpse and commenced investigation into the circumstances surrounding the robbery incident.
According to the NAF spokesman, “the Mobility Command Headquarters is compelled by the misleading report to correct the wrong impression that an Air force officer killed the late baker. Investigations are on going to establish circumstances leading to the death of the late baker by the relevant authorities. The report which alleged that shots were heard from the direction of ‘the Air Force Base’ was later complicated by the subsequent statement that the late baker ‘was allegedly mistaken for a robbery suspect by Air force personnel’ and consequently shot.”
The Air force spokesman however acknowledged the efforts of some journalists who took time to investigate the incident before going to press and expressed the hope that such careful approach to news reporting will be sustained to facilitate factual and balance reporting of stories.