The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has revealed why it prevented chartered air flight meant to convey some Middle belt leaders from landing at its base in Makurdi, Benue state capital.
According to report some members of Southern and Middle Belt Forum led by President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo and Edwin Clark were on Monday denied flying to Benue from the Abuja airport.
Reacting, however, NAF in a statement by Olatokunbo Adesanya, Director of Public Relations and Information said there was no notice from the state government in line with global practice.
The statement reads “There is absolutely no iota of truth in the allegations that NAF’s decision was politically motivated. To start with, the runway at NAF Base Makurdi is not a dual user facility but one constructed strictly for military purpose.
“Accordingly, in line with global best practices, there is a clearly established procedure for non-NAF aircraft to operate into and out of the runway in Makurdi, and that procedure is well known to all qualified pilots in Nigeria.
“Indeed, many airlines had in the past adhered to the stipulated procedure and therefore successfully landed and taken off from the NAF runway in Makurdi. 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.
“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 replaced aircraft with Registration Number 5N-IZY to land at its Base in Makurdi.”
Adesanya pointed out that NAF remains apolitical and does not concern itself with politics.
“For the avoidance of doubts, the NAF does not concern itself with political or religious affiliations of individuals/organizations in granting landing rights at its airfields. 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.
“The NAF remains a highly professional and apolitical organization that would rather focus on its military duties. Consequently, the NAF wishes to implore all concerned to desist from dragging the name of the NAF into partisan politics,” Adesanya added.