by Nnenna Ibeh
Protesters have flooded the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, demanding Nigerian Government’s explanation on the arrested Chad-bound Russian aircraft.
The protesters, who are members of a coalition of northern youth organization, Northern Consensus Movement(NCM) said it was important that relevant authorities explain Nigeria’s relationship with the Chad-bound aircraft allegedly laden with military hardware.
The President, NCM, Ibrahim Wala, said with the terrorist attacks rocking Nigeria’s North East, it is impossible to overlook the sudden appearance of a cargo laden with weapons, including helicopters.
“This is not the first time we are witnessing an interception of arm-laden aircraft, particularly in Kano Airport. It is unfortunate that all these while, there hasn’t been any explanation with regards to the destination of these cargos,” Mr. Wala said.
Mr. 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.
“Now we are here again and incidentally we are talking about the content of this cargo which has some helicopters, you may recall there were certain reports pointing fingers to the Chadian government concerning the relationship of Chadian president with some of the politicians that have been fingered also,” he said.
The occupants of the plane – a pilot and a co-pilot and 16 others – are being held by the Nigerian Military.
One of the protesters, Muhktar Lawal, told PREMIUM TIMES that the group was protesting to get answers from relevant authorities about Nigeria’s connection with the arm-laden aircraft.
“We want to occupy the airport because there are so many irregularities going on; this is the third time a plane carrying arms is being grounded in Kano and always they will say the arms are not meant for Nigeria and nobody will hear anything again,” Mr. Lawal said.
He said with the incessant insurgency in the North East, citizens can no longer keep mum on the smuggling of arms into Nigeria.
“If the weapons are meant for Niger or Chad, why are the authorities of these countries not confirming such?” he asked.
The Defence Headquarters on Saturday said the aircraft, an Antonov Cargo plane, laden with military hardware, was arrested at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport in Kano.
It also said it was carrying out investigation as regards the origin and destination of the plane.
While the French ambassador to Nigeria, Jacques Champagne de Labriolle, has admitted that his country chattered the Russian aircraft to help it convey some military hardware from Bangui in the Central African Republic to N’djamena, Chad, he denied there were arms and ammunition aboard the plane.
The Nigerian government has also said it is not in a hurry to release the aircraft despite France admitting that it owns the military hardware aboard the plane.