From Edwin Olofu with agency report
A coalition of youth organisations from Northern Nigeria, under the auspices of Northern Consensus Movement (NCM), yesterday stormed the premises of Malam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA), demanding that the federal government make public details of the detained Russian Chad-bound plane.
The coalition group, headed by its national president, Ibrahim Garba Wala, yesterday besieged the airport’s premises protesting that Nigerian authorities should identify those behind the cargo.
Speaking to journalists in MAKIA, Wala said that Nigerians were thrown into confusion and fears over the detained arm-laden plane, stressing that the Nigerian authorities should answer the questions been raised by the citizens regarding the aircraft.
Wala said the group could not afford to sit back and watch the release of the aircraft without adequate explanation of its content and whereabouts.
The protesters carried placards that read: “We are in a state of war, we need aid not arms. We need details of the Chad-bound cargo; why is Ali Modu Sherrif in Kano? Where are the Northern leaders?”
Meanwhile, the federal government yesterday ordered the release of the Chad-bound Russian aircraft detained at the Aminu Kano Airport in Kano, hours after it said it was not in a hurry to let the aircraft go.
PR Nigeria, an agency that circulates press statements for Nigerian security agencies, had quoted an unnamed top security official as telling it that “Nigeria has no reason to release the aircraft and its cargo until investigation is concluded”.
But the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Adesola Amosu, said Monday afternoon that the government had approved the release of the aircraft, the News Agency of Nigeria is reporting.
The government reportedly announced the release of the aircraft shortly after Premium Times obtained a manifest which listed the entire cargo on the plane.
France had said the plane was conveying equipment, owned by its peacekeeping force, from Bangui (Central African Republic) to Ndjamena (Chad), and had diplomatic cover to make a stop-over in Nigeria.
The French Ambassador to Nigeria, Jacques Champagne de Labriolle, had said Sunday that Nigerian authorities had agreed to let the aircraft go.
“Due to the nationality of the aircraft, and the nature of the cargo, local airport Nigerian authorities in Kano have decided to check the flight plan, the clearance and the cargo manifest before authorizing the plane to leave,” the ambassador said in statement through which he admitted his country’s ownership of the cargo aboard the aircraft.
“Official information has been supplied by the French Embassy in Nigeria. The Nigerian federal and airport authorities, being satisfied with the documents and the genuine character of the flight, have announced that the plane will be authorized to pursue its flight to Ndjamena.”
Russia had initially said through its embassy in Nigeria on Saturday night that the plane wasn’t Russian and that it had no link with that country.
But in another statement on Sunday afternoon, the embassy said the plane is indeed a Russian one hired by the French government to convey military hardware for its peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic.
This is the third time since 2009 that planes loaded with arms would be arrested in Kano.
The detained planes were later released after investigations.
The destination of the latest aircraft has however raised concerns amid increasing worries in Nigeria over Chad’s alleged role in the Boko Haram insurgency plaguing Nigeria’s northeast.