The Nigerian Air Force has refused to disclose the location of the missing Alpha Jet NAF 475 which crashed on March 30 in Borno State in order to make Nigerians lose significance of the incident, military sources told SaharaReporters.
Sources added that the NAF authorities allegedly warned its search-and-rescue team not to disclose the whereabouts of the Alpha Jet which is now missing for 12 days, even as the authorities have yet to contact the families of the two affected pilots – Flight Lieutenant John Abolarinwa and Flight Lieutenant Ebiakpo Chapele.
“The crashed Alpha jet has been found. I can assure you of that, but the NAF people are playing smart to let the incident die down and lose its significance. The pilots’ families have not been contacted yet, and when they are contacted, it will be done in another discreet manner to douse tension.
“There was an incident in February, where a NAF Beechcraft King Air 350i Surveillance Aircraft crashed in Abuja, and killed six personnel; that one is still being investigated and then this embarrassment again. So, they know what they are doing,” a source stated.
The fighter jet went missing on Wednesday, March 30, around 5pm, amidst fears that it might have been captured or shot down by the Boko Haram terrorists.
The Alpha Jet, a light attack jet and advanced jet trainer aircraft, has played a significant role in Nigeria’s counter-insurgency campaign in the North-East theatre of operation.
It was acquired by NAF in 2014 from the United States of America air force.
The last update the NAF gave was on April 2, when the NAF authorities said that intelligence gathered so far indicated that the jet might have crashed although it had yet to know the whereabouts of the jet or the two pilots on board.
Military sources had said at that time that the jet crashed in the Konduga Local Government Area of Borno State, although the NAF did not confirm the location.
The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Oladayo Amao, had arrived in Maiduguri, Borno State, a day later to coordinate the ongoing search and rescue mission for the Alpha Jet.
The NAF Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet, had stated that the air force still believed the two pilots would be found and rescued.
“Intelligence report gathered by the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) indicates that the Alpha Jet aircraft (NAF475) that went off the radar with 2 crew members on board on March 31, 2021 might have crashed.
“The cause of the crash as well as the whereabouts of the 2 pilots remains unknown. The pilots are Flight Lieutenant John Abolarinwa and Flight Lieutenant Ebiakpo Chapele.
“Extensive search and rescue efforts are still ongoing by NAF surveillance aircraft as well as NAF Special Forces and Nigerian Army troops on ground.
“At this point, the NAF is not ruling out anything regarding the incident. It however remains hopeful that the crew would soon be found and rescued,” Air Commodore Gabkwet had stated in an update two days after.
It will be recalled that in February 2021, a NAF Beechcraft King Air 350i Surveillance Aircraft crashed in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
The outcome of NAF’s supposed investigations into the crash has yet to be made public as well.