The Federal Government has overruled the “no-fly zone” order by National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd), banning the use of unauthorised aircrafts, especially commercial helicopters between Abuja and Kaduna.
The Minister of State for Aviation, Sen. Heidi Sirika, disclosed the decision to reverse the ban on Wednesday, to the State House correspondents, at the end of the Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mongonu had on Monday issued the ban based on existing “no-fly zone” in the Federal Capital Territory ( FCT), Abuja, in line with standard security practice across the world.
He explained in a memo to aviation industry stakeholders that the Abuja airspace is controlled and only security flights or those with permission from the presidency would be allowed to use the airspace.
The NSA however, agreed with FEC on Wednesday that helicopters will continue to fly to Abuja airport from anywhere in the country, but stressed that “the procedure that will be used to approach the airport under landing spot will be advised accordingly before the end of day”.
In the same vein, the Minister of Aviation added that commercial helicopter companies had offered to provide air transport between the two cities following the closure of the runway of Nnamdi Azikiwe international airport Abuja for repairs.
He said: “On the helicopter issue the National Security Adviser has the constitutional responsibility vested on him by his excellence Mr. President to advise the President on National security matters, within his wisdom he had earlier on sent out letters banning the helicopters operation into the airport but the National Security Adviser had earlier this morning said that helicopters will of course continue to fly to Abuja airport from wherever. The procedure that they will use to approach the airport under landing spot will be advised accordingly before the end of today, which means that helicopters can come into Abuja and out bearing in mind that within the metropolitan city of Abuja there are no fly zones and this is very normal in every country.
“They have areas where there are no fly zones but the National Security Adviser this morning approved that helicopters should enter Abuja airport and out but the procedures in which helicopters should enter into Abuja and the spot which the helicopters will land will be advised in due course and it shall be before the end of today”.
Speaking further, Sirika said that the operational efforts on the Kaduna International airport has been very smooth for the last one week, while commending Nigerians for their understanding.
“We thank God the operations in Kaduna is going on smooth, we are able to do what we said we would do, we are actually walking our talk. We thank Nigerians for understanding with us in this period of emergency. We have deployed enough personnel to handle and process passengers in Kaduna, of course the terminal building is finished and is being used for the last one week in Kaduna.
“I am sure also the complimentary buses and train that we have provided to ferry passengers from Kaduna to Abuja and vice versa are running on smoothly and of course we plead and thank Nigerians to bear with us within this six weeks. We have five more weeks to go and by the grace of God we shall achieve that and things will be normal so we appreciate your support and understanding in this regard,” he said.
The Minister also spoke on the issue of foreign airlines refusing to land in Kaduna since the closure of Abuja airport except the Ethiopian Air line.
He said there are no plans to sanction foreign airlines that have refused to land in Kaduna, saying it was a commercial decision.
Sirika however, said negotiations were ongoing for a Nigerian airline to fly to London daily to bridge the gaps.
He continued: “That has been discussed earlier on International airlines at least Ethiopian airlines are coming with brand new airline, the dream liner, the newest baby in the world of aviation, the boeing 787 its fantastic they landed in Kaduna.
“The London-Kaduna they were processed without a hitch, and of course we are still talking to other airlines to see reason and begin to come because they see that its possible, doable, safe and secure, its in perfect condition and we are personally talking to other airlines within Nigeria to see the possibility of doing it, in an event where British airways may not come or Lufthansa. We are into negotiations that will be able to fly into London and Kaduna daily just like the British airways was doing in Abuja.”
“I think within the next couple of days we shall conclude and if it is possible we shall announce to Nigerians that there will be flight from Kaduna to London and back. We will be using the advantage of the gap created by British airways out of Abuja, that is going on.
“Yesterday afternoon (Tuesday) I was with British High Commissioner, I discussed with them for onward delivery to their own country, we are ready here we have the aircraft that we can deploy. The airline that we can use to go into London and back on daily basis is ready, we shall keep you posted within the next couple of days,” the minister noted.