The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) yesterday debunked the reports that denying landing rights to a chartered flight carrying Southern leaders to a Middle Belt conference in Makurdi, Benue State, was politically-motivated.
NAF’s Director of Public Relations and Information, Air Vice Marshal Olatokunbo Adesanya, in a statement said there was no iota of truth in the allegations.
According to him, the runway at NAF Base, Makurdi, is not a dual user facility but one constructed strictly for military purpose.
“The attention of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has sadly been drawn to allegations that it prevented a chartered flight from landing at its Base in Makurdi on July 16, 2018 for political reasons.
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,” he said.
He added 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.
The procedure, he said, includes a written request to NAF Headquarters in 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.
Adesanya stated that in this case, there was indeed a request for permit by the Benue State Government dated July 16, 2018 for aircraft with Registration Number 5N-FCT to land at NAF Base in Makurdi on July 16, 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 July 16, 2018.
“However, at about 5:00 p.m. on July 16, 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.
“For the avoidance of doubts, the NAF does not concern itself with political or religious affiliations of individuals/organisations 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 co-ordinated from NAF Base in Makurdi with fighter aircraft flying in and out of the Base.
The NAF remains a highly professional and apolitical organisation 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,” the Air Force spokesman added.