- … Claosure of Maiduguri airport for security reasons – Olukolade
From Mustapha Isah Kwaru, Maiduguri and Edoamaowo Udeme
The 278 intended pilgrims for the lesser Hajj from Borno and Yobe states, who were earlier barred from being airlifted to Saudi Arabia from the Maiduguri International Airport on Friday, have arrived the Holy Land safely.
Our correspondent reported that the soldiers, acting on ‘directives from above ‘ had denied the worshippers from boarding an aircraft belonging Max Airline for onward airlift to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Similarly, despite the intervention of Governor Kashim Shettima into the matter, the military command refused to allow the airlift to go as planned, a situation that generated tension and condemnation from Muslim community.
However, a statement issued at the weekend, by the management of Skynet International Limited, the Hajj and Umrah agency that chartered Max airline, said the pilgrims safely travelled by road through the night and were airlifted in Kano.
Managing Director of the agency, Grema Terab, who signed the statement, noted that when the military disallowed the worshippers to board the plane, they were however compelled to embarked on a five-hour drive to Kano and arrived midnight before they were airlifted from the Aminu Kano International Airport.
The statement added that the worshippers arrived the Holy Land on Saturday safely.
Meanwhile, the Director, Defence Information Major-General Chris Olukolade has said that the airport was only observing restriction of the facility to military use in the light of on-going operations in the area.
In a press statement released yesterday by the defence headquarters, Olukolade added that “the security assessment of the situation indicate that a sudden massive air lift could not be permitted in the light of the threats and on-going operations in the area”.
He pointed out that an alternative arrangement was however worked out with the relevant authorities in the state, to enable the airlift of pilgrimages despite the inconveniencies which, according to him, will be ameliorated as the exercise progress.
“The sensitivity of the situation in the country calls for due caution and conscious effort to avoid yielding to the pressure from those who are apparently sympathetic to those working frantically to undermine the nation’s security”.
He, however, called on the general public to ignore all insinuations inferring religious or political connotations from the security measures put in place in Maiduguri airport, adding that, “The intention has ever been to jeopardize the airlifting of pilgrims as has been wrongly portrayed”.