The federal government has barred private aircraft from landing at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA) in Kano.
This is coming barely 24 hours after Rivers state governor, Rotimi Ameachi, and some other chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC) travelling with him, had his private chartered jet impounded at the MAKIA on “orders from above”, forcing him and his entourage to travel by road to Abuja.
Also, our correspondent learnt that the managers of the airport also stopped the governor of Nasarawa state, Umaru Tanko Al-Makura from landing at the airport early hours of yesterday, when he went to commiserate with his Kano state counterpart, Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso.
The plane conveying the Nasarawa governor had to make a detour to Kaduna, from where he travelled by road to Abuja after it was stopped from landing at the MAKIA.
A spokesman of the Nasarawa governor, Sani Musa Mairiga, had accused the federal government of “humiliating” his boss. “Why will they stop landing at the airport after Governor Al-Makura’s plane had taken off from Abuja. Why didn’t they issue the ban a day or much earlier before his (Al-Makura’s) plane took off from the Abuja airport”, Mairiga queried in an interview with Hausa service of the BBC.
However, Director of Defence Information (DDI), Major General Chris Olukolade, who confirmed the ban on the private plans from landing in the commercial city, simply cited security reasons for the government’s action, but did not state clearly what the nature of the security concerns were.
When contacted to confirm the ban through an sms, General Olukolade simply said: “Yes. Security”.
But some sources cited the emergence of Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as successor to the late Ado Bayero, against the expectations with government circles in Abuja, as possible reason for the federal government’s action.
It was, according to sources, apparent that the government in Abuja is not comfortable with Sanusi’s emergence as new emir, given its recent running battle with the Jonathan administration over his allegation that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had withheld $20 billion from the Federation Account. This led to his suspension as governor of the CBN on the 20th of February, this year.
According to our sources, therefore, the ban on private jets from landing was to curtail the expected “pilgrimage” to Kano city to felicitate with the newly installed emir.
What was even more confusing was that when contacted yesterday, coordinating spokesperson of the aviation agencies, Yakubu Dati, when contacted, said the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the regulator of the sector, was not behind the ban.
“We have not banned any plane from landing in Kano. You know there is civil aviation and there is also military aviation which supersedes ours”, he said.
Governor Amaechi was allegedly locked inside the MAKIA on Sunday for an undisclosed number of minutes before the gate was forced open.
“Yesterday, my counterpart in Kano told me that the people at the airport said they were directed not to allow all non-scheduled aircrafts to take off or land.
“So, while the governor was there, I am also told, they began to lock all the gates to the exit of the airport and they locked the gates with the governor inside the aircraft.
“For the governor to exit the airport, somebody had to break the padlock of the gate. So, the governor and his team could leave. That amounts to imprisonment without charge.
“I got the Commissioner for State Affairs, who briefed me and told me that the chattered aircraft that conveyed the governor to Kano, was denied take-off from Aminu Kano International Airport by a fellow identified as the Commandant, acting on orders from above.
“That was the only information he (Kano state commissioner for state Affairs) was willing to share when the governor enquired about what offence himself and the aircraft operators had committed. With the governor was Alhaji Kawu Baraje as well as Senator Danjuma Goje, former governor of Gombe state,” Semenitari said.
Semenitari expressed surprised that an aircraft that was cleared prior to the time of arrival would not be allowed to take off with the same passengers it landed with.
The development, according to her, remains a clear indication that some people want to intimidate Nigerians ahead of the 2015 general election.
Meanwhile, Governor Kwankwaso, yesterday admitted that he came under tremendous pressure from different quarters over the choice of a successor to the late Emir, Alhaji Ado Bayero.
Kwankwaso revealed this while presenting the letter of appointment to the new Emir of Kano, at the Government House in Kano, even as he affirmed that all the contestants to the coveted seat were eminently qualified.
He said it was a difficult task choosing from one amongst the contestants, because they are all close to the government, stressing however that a leader must take decisions, no matter the consequences.
“It was a difficult decision, from the day the emir died to Sunday I was under serious pressure from politicians, traditional rulers and many other interest groups all over the country.
“All the contestant are friends of the government; there is no one among them that is an enemy of the government. If it was possible to divide the position of the emir into six and share it among all the contestants, I would have done that; but it is not possible.
“There are people even in my government that are qualified for the position but we have to choose one. As a governor I must perform my responsibility and take a decision; if not, things will go bad”, he stated.
He further revealed that contrary to claims in some quarters that the new emir’s name was not among the nominees submitted to the governor by the kingmakers, he said the name of the former CBN governor was top on the list.
The governor cautioned those fomenting trouble to desist from it in the interest in peace of the state, stating that Allah gives power to whomsoever He wishes, and admonished citizens to take the emergence of Sanusi as the will of Allah.
In his acceptance speech, the new emir, disclosed that the family of late Emir, Ado Bayero and his own family are one, adding that: “Our family and the late emir’s is one family.
“I grew up under late Bayero’s tutelage. I grew up along with children of the late emir.
“We are appealing to people to stop discussing what they don’t know. This protest is not from our family. Our relatives cannot ignite this protest in Kano”, he affirmed.