Blockade of Gombe Airport, a sabotage

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The All Progressives Congress, on Sunday, described as an act of sabotage and a dent on Nigeria’s air safety standards, the blockade of the Gombe Airport on Thursday.

The APC said the blockade prevented a plane carrying its officials from landing.

The party, in a statement in Lagos by its Interim National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, called for a thorough investigation into the incident.

“In view of the seriousness of this unprecedented act; the wilful 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 statement noted.

It said that the investigation was necessary in order to ensure that Nigeria’s airspace did not become another weapon in the hands of a desperate administration.

The APC noted that the authorities knew those who were aboard the plane and their mission in Gombe.

“We make bold to say that the politicisation of air safety is worse than the alleged training of snipers by the (President Goodluck) Jonathan administration,’’ it said.

The APC also criticised the spokesman for the aviation agencies, Yakubu Dati, who reportedly said the airport was closed for a routine operation to check fire tenders.

According to the APC, an emergency drill does not at any time involve parking a fire truck on the runway.

It said that such drills were conducted to enhance safety, not to jeopardise it, adding that fire trucks were not tested for serviceability on the runway.

The party said, ‘’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 flight 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.”

It said those who wanted to turn Nigerian aviation to kangaroo aviation must be made to know that international aviation bodies were watching the lawlessness that some officials were introducing into the conduct of safety standards

Reacting to calls by the APC that the Gombe incident be investigation, the spokesperson for aviation parastatals, Yakubu Dati, stated that the opposition party was politicising safety issues.

He maintained that aviation regulatory agencies would not be intimidated by politicians. “They are only confirming what we are saying that people want to politicise safety issues. And the fact remains that we will not be intimidated, no matter the level of politicisation of issues of this sort.

“Well, politicians are free to play their politics but we have a mandate to operate based on what is obtainable and again I say this –we cannot be intimidated,” he said.

Dati said the government had released an official statement on the issue and stressed that “we we stand by our statement.”

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