The government said yesterday that “we have not seen any controversial item on board particularly arms and ammunition as well as dangerous equipment meant for aggression.”
Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adesola Amosu, who announced the release of the aircraft and its content at a press briefing, noted that the action followed the receipt of correspondence from the French authorities in Paris clearly identifying that the cargo on-board the aircraft duly originated from the French government.
Disclosing that the Nigerian Air Force was justified in the detention of the aircraft, the CAS said: “From our records, we had no record of clearance for an Antonov aircraft to operate into Kano. What we have is a ‘block clearance’ which is diplomatic permits allowed for French aircraft to land in our airport even at short notice. It is signed by the Foreign Ministry which covers the aircraft.
“But as soon as they landed in Kano, the Nigeria Air Force had responsibility to ensure that only duly designated aircraft are allowed. We also had to ensure that the seven banned items by the international aviation bodies including toxic waste, nuclear material, bacteria for chemical weapons and other dangerous substances were not on board.
“The good news is that having carried out the procedural checks on the basic information and materials, we have not seen any controversial item aboard particularly ammunition or weapons of war.
Emphasizing that France has been a willing partner in the fight against terrorism in Nigeria and that the country has enjoyed good bilateral relations with Nigeria, the Air Chief said: “By this briefing, we are therefore releasing the aircraft and its cargo.”
Also speaking at the occasion, the French Defence Attaché’ to Nigeria, Colonel Marc Ombe Humbert, disclosed that the aircraft was not carrying arms and ammunition but two Gazelle helicopters for light liaison, gifts for French forces, a sports utility vehicle and aircraft parts belonging to the French forces which were used in operation in Central Africa Republic but were being sent to Ndjamena from where they will be returned to France.