The Nigerian Airforce on Monday explained why it detained and later released the Chad-bound Antonov 124 cargo Aircraft to the French Government.
Security operatives had on December 6 intercepted the aircraft, which carried military hardware, at the Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano.
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adesola Amosu, made the clarifications in Abuja at a joint media briefing with the French Defence Attaché to Nigeria, Col Mac Humbert.
He said the aircraft was detained because the crew could not provide adequate clarification on the flight, adding that Nigeria had to ensure that the equipment being conveyed were not intended for criminal activities elsewhere.
Mr. Amosu said Nigeria agreed to release the plane after receiving adequate documentation on the flight from the French government.
“We just got the correspondence from the French government that the items on board the aircraft belong to it and we respect that.
“We have had established good relationships with the French government and we do value that.
“So, by this press briefing we are releasing the aircraft as soon as we finish from here,” Mr. Amosu said.
He said that the aircraft departed Bangui, Central African Republic for Ndjamena, Chad, and that from the records available to the Air Force authorities, it had no clearance to operate in Kano.
“The French government and Nigeria have a block clearance to cover up most flights throughout the year.
“But the block clearance that we have has some exceptions tabulated on the document that we give for block clearances.
“There are about seven elements that ought to be avoided when you operate using the block clearance.
“One of the conditions is that the aircraft must not be bearing toxic waste, or dangerous materials.
“It should also not be carrying nuclear or bacterial or any issue used for chemical weapons; and troops must not be carried.
The Air Chief said when the aircraft landed in Kano, the Nigerian Air Force had a responsibility to ensure that all aircrafts that landed at the country’s airports were duly searched to confirm that they had permission to land.
He said that the airforce did exactly what it needed to do, and that it did not get adequate clarification from the crew.
Mr. Amosu said that one of the issues faced while trying to get clarification from the crew had to do with language barrier, which he said, was not a new thing.
He listed the items found on the aircraft to include two gazelle helicopters for light wheezy; a rover armoured plated for VIP protection; propeller blades and some items for entertainment.
“We expect every nation to rise up to verify that those items are not going to be used to cause trouble in other regions of the world.
“And that is exactly what the Airforce has done, not just about fighting war, but stopping this kind of activities is also part of war.
“We may not be fighting right here on Nigerian soil but in the process of interception, we may be helping other nations to win their war against insurgency.
The French Defence Attaché to Nigeria, Col. Mac Humbert, said the flight was intended to proceed from Bangui to Ndjamena.
Mr. Humbert said that when the flight was approaching Ndjamena, the airport there was too busy , and the runway was not available for landing.
He said the airport control tower in Ndjamena, therefore, told the crew to go to the nearest available airport and land.
“The standard for international flights is that you have to go to the next international airport, and the next one is Kano.
“The problem is the crew was in flight and I could not see how the embassy could inform the government here.”