By Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has explained why the chartered flight carrying Southern leaders to a Middle Belt conference in Markudi, Benue State were denied landing rights.
NAF’s Director of Public Relations and Information (DOPRI), Air Vice Marshal Olatokunbo Adesanya, in a statement Tuesday, denied the allegations that it prevented a chartered flight from landing at its base in Makurdi on July 16, 2018, for political reasons.
Adesanya said there is absolutely no iota of truth in the allegations that NAFâ€™s decision was politically motivated. To start with, he said, the runway at NAF Base, Makurdi is not a dual user facility but one constructed strictly for military purpose.
He stressed that in line with global best practices, there is a clearly established procedure for non-NAF aircraft to operate in and out of the runway in Makurdi, and that procedure is well known to all qualified pilots in Nigeria.
The DOPRI also noted that many airlines had in the past adhered to the stipulated procedure and therefore successfully landed and taken off from the NAF runway in Makurdi.
According to him, the procedure includes a written request to NAF Headquarters, Abuja for permission for a specific aircraft to operate into its airfield on a specific date and time, including the names of passengers and other necessary details.
He said: “In this case, there was indeed a request for permit by the Benue State Government, dated 16 July, 2018, for Aircraft with Registration Number 5N-FCT to land at NAF Base, Makurdi on 16 July, 2018. Although requests for landing permits are expected to reach NAF Headquarters not later than two days before the desired landing date, the NAF went out of its way to expedite the process and accordingly granted the permit for aircraft with Registration Number 5N-FCT to land at NAF Base Makurdi on 16 July, 2018.
“However, at about 5pm on 16 July, 2018, the NAF was verbally informed that there was a need to change the aircraft for which permission had already been issued, reportedly because the aircraft had developed snags. The NAF, therefore, asked for another written request, in line with the established procedure. As at date, the NAF Headquarters is yet to receive a written request for the replacement aircraft with Registration Number 5N-IZY to land at its Base in Makurdi.”
Adesanya stressed that the NAF does not concern itself with political or religious affiliations of individuals/organisations in granting landing rights at its airfields.
He maintained that the issue of security and safety remains uppermost particularly while noting that the ongoing Operation Whirl Stroke is largely being coordinated from NAF Base Makurdi, with fighter aircraft flying in and out of the base.
He also assured Nigerians that NAF remains a highly professional and apolitical organisation that would rather focus on its military duties.
To this end, he implored all concerned to desist from dragging the name of the NAF into partisan politics.