The All Progressives Congress (APC) has decried last Thursday’s blockage of the Gombe Airport which prevented an aircraft carrying the party’s officials from Abuja from landing, describing the development as a clear act of sabotage and a dent on Nigeria’s air safety standards.
The party in a statement issued in Lagos Sunday by its Interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said: “In view of the seriousness of this unprecedented act; the willful endangering of the lives of those on board the aircraft that was deliberately prevented from landing and the fact that the action contravenes global aviation standards, we call for a comprehensive investigation of the incident by the National Assembly.
“The investigation is necessary to ensure that Nigeria’s airspace does not become another weapon in the hands of a desperate administration. After all, the authorities know those who were aboard the plane as well as their mission in Gombe. We make bold to say that the politicization of air safety is worse than the alleged training of snipers by the Jonathan administration”, it said.
The party also took the coordinating spokesman for the various aviation agencies, Yakubu Dati to task on his defence of the blockage of the airport, saying it is either he did not know what he was saying or he was being economical with the truth.
Dati was reported as saying the airport was closed for a routine operation to check fire tenders, but APC countered saying, “Either way, he has shown by his unprofessional comments that he is qualified to do everything but speak for the aviation agencies”.
It noted that any aviation spokesman worth his salt must surely know that an emergency drill does not at any time involve parking a fire truck on the runway, and that such drills are conducted to enhance safety, not to jeopardize it. “He must also know that fire trucks are not tested for serviceability on the runway, but at their parking bays in the fire stations”, the opposition party added.
APC said if indeed the airport needed to be closed for whatever reason, a Notice to Airmen, NOTAM, should have been issued to inform all operators and users of the airport of the situation; and the air traffic controllers, being aware of the situation, should have then advised the pilot well in advance, maybe even at time the captain filed his flight plan from point of take-off.
“The investigation being sought must therefore find out if and when a NOTAM was issued by the Gombe Airport; whether or not Kano and Abuja got the notice; if they did, why did they still clear the flight for takeoff and en route? Definitely, the captain of the airline must have filed a fight plan before takeoff; and Abuja must have cleared it for takeoff. Further investigation will reveal whether the necessary steps were taken by those involved, while appropriate sanctions must be meted out to erring officials, including the glaringly ineffectual and pliant supervising Minister”, the party said.
It warned that those who are seeking to turn Nigerian aviation to kangaroo aviation must be made to know that international aviation bodies are watching the lawlessness that some unscrupulous officials are now introducing into the conduct of safety standards.
“Aviation has no room for politics. Even at the height of the Cold War, US commercial planes were not barred from the airspace of the USSR and vice versa. The flight that was, apparently, deliberately prevented from landing at the Gombe Airport could have come from anywhere, even beyond the country’s borders. It could have been a flight in distress in which case the sequence of events and their aftermath would have been a tragedy, a man-made tragedy”, APC said.
The party wondered what would have happened if the plane bearing the APC officials, led by former Minister of State for Power and Steel Murtala Aliyu, could not land in Bauchi and did not have enough fuel to return to Abuja, stressing that the action of those who blocked the runway with a fire truck was irresponsible, reckless and apparently choreographed to induce an emergency and, probably, a crash.
”This politics-gone-awry is another indication of the desperation of the Jonathan-led administration to stifle the opposition at all cost and should be condemned by all right thinking people everywhere. It is the latest in a series of acts of impunity by a drowning government. Our teeming supporters should however note that we will neither be intimidated nor shaken by these acts”, it assured.