Posted by Philip Nwosu, Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja and Rose Ejembi, Makudi | 17 July 2018 | 1,647 times
The Southern and Middle Belt Forum (southern flank) led by Chief Edwin Clark, said they were stopped from travelling to Makurdi yesterday, to attend the Middle Belt summit on restructuring.
They alleged that the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration was gradually descending into military dictatorship.
Speaking for the group, the Secretary-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, John Nwodo, at a press conference in Abuja, after they were stopped from flying, said even though they had secured a charter aircraft, which was ready to fly to Makurdi, they were told that for security reasons, they needed clearance to land at the airport.
Nwodo said the elders spent about five hours at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, trying to obtain clearance to make the journey, but were refused by the Commandant of the Makurdi Airport, whose name was given as Lt. Commander A. Audu.
“We arrived in time for our flight today (yesterday) at 12:00 noon, but the airport commandant disallowed us from flying and said we needed to get permission to land in Makurdi.
“We consider this fundamental infringement on our democratic right of freedom of movement and freedom of association. There is nothing in our law precluding us from moving to wherever we like, and holding an opinion, insofar as we do not breach any law in Nigeria.
“What has happened to us today expresses a lot of doom for fundamental human rights in our country, for the free exchange of ideas as unavoidable instruments of achieving growth and development of our polity.
“We deprecate the treatment that we were given today, which treatment prevented us from physically joining our brethren in the Middle Belt, in a common view which we all hold, a very patriotic view, which we think will be the only way to guarantee the future of our country.”
On whether they saw it as an attempt to sabotage their participation at the summit, a member of the forum, Yinka Odumakin, said: “The first jet that was to take us started this funny game of saying that there was a bad weather to Makurdi and that they could not fly until we got to other airlines, and I asked what’s bad about the weather. They said they were ready to take us.
“As we were about to make payments, they now said there were landing permit issues. They called the commandant in Makurdi, who said they should send an application.
“The Chief of Staff to the Benue State Governor said we should fax the application to him and to the commandant.
“We waited at the airport for hours. Eventually, the Chief of Staff had to contact the commandant in Makurdi and was told that the landing permit requested by the first airline was still on their table. At that stage, General C. Ariyo Niege, a veteran ex-soldier, who was head of Nigerian military forces in Sudan, went to the commandant in Abuja.”
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Air Force said it was not aware of any move to prevent any commercial or charter aircraft from landing in its airfield in Makurdi Benue State.
The Spokesman for the Nigerian Air Force, Air Vice Marshal Olatokunbo Adesanya, who denied allegations that the force prevented a commercial charter airplane from landing at its airfield, said the standard procedure was for the airplane to apply for permission in writing and obtain same in writing from the NAF Headquarters, before it could be allowed to take off from its destination to Makurdi.
He told Daily Sun on telephone that the only airport in Makurdi is the airfield, which belongs to the Nigerian Air Force, and there is need for any aircraft which wants to use the facility to obtain permission in writing.
He said: “If it is our own base that is being referred to, you know it is only NAF aircraft that is allowed to land there. Any other aircraft, either of another military or another registration that will land there would have to obtain permission from the Nigerian Air Force and when the NAF discovers that the aircraft will not constitute a security risk, they will give authority to the base in Makurdi to allow the aircraft land.”
He said that what is obtainable worldwide in the aviation industry is that, if the Nigerian Air Force plane wants to travel to Sierra Leone, for instance, it would first obtain landing rights from the Airport in Freetown before taking off from Nigeria.
AVM Adesanya explained that the practice is the standard worldwide.
•Excerpted from Daily Sun
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