Controversy unfolded in Maiduguri yesterday, as a plane carrying the immediate past governor of Borno state, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff (aka SAS) and his political associates, was permitted by the federal
government to fly into the already closed-down Maiduguri International Airport.
This came barely two weeks after military operatives, acting on what they termed as ‘security reasons’, had shut down the airport and barred 278 intending pilgrims for Borno and Yobe states from being airlifted to Saudi Arabia for the lesser Hajj, despite the quick intervention by Governor Kashim Shettima.
Similarly, Governor Shettima was equally disallowed to use the airport facility for a trip to Kano yesterday almost the same his former boss was about landing as he was compelled to travel by road to catch a flight to Saudi Arabia to perform lesser Hajj.
Our correspondent gathered that Sheriff arrived the airport at about 1.32pm, on board his private jet, with registration number 5NBMH, to the waiting hands of dozens of soldiers, led by the Garrison Commander of the 7 Division of the Nigerian Army, Maiduguri, Colonel D.R. Hassan, who led troops to give cover to the ex-governor.
The plane departed the airport at 2:22pm, and is expected to return today, to airlift the former governor.
However, the Director of Defence Information, Major-General Chris Olukolade, yesterday explained that SAS had met certain requirements for the use of the airport.
Reacting to an sms sent to him by one of our reporter, inquiring on the controversial use of the closed airport by the former governor, General Olukolade said: “Senator Sheriff requested for and complied with all security conditions for clearance”, adding that, “He (SAS) was cleared to land accordingly”.
It would be recalled that following the closure of the Maiduguri International airport by the federal government on June 27, 2014, intending pilgrims for this year’s lesser hajj were forced to travel by road to Kano amidst fears over their safety.
As the airport closure was still in force, Governor Shettima yesterday embarked on a trip by road to Kano to see his immediate elder brother and most senior member of his family. The governor’s convoy was without soldiers.