The military has reacted to reports on Friday that flights from the Maiduguri airport in Borno State were barred, leaving over 278 Hajj pilgrims and two federal lawmakers stranded and embarrassed.
Director of defence information, Chris Olukolade, a major general, said contrary to the reports, the airport was only observing restriction of the facility to military use in the light of on-going operations in the area.
Olukolade said this followed assessment of the security situation in the state which indicated that a sudden massive air lift could not be permitted in the light of the threats and on-going operations in the area.
“Apparently, the implications of such massive airlift and traffic from the facility in the light of present security situation was not appreciated early enough by those planning the exercise to enable proper security procedure be installed for the important exercise,” he said.
According to him, an alternative arrangement has been worked out in concert with the relevant authorities in the state to enable the movement proceed.
The defence spokesman said the sensitivity of the situation in the country calls for caution and conscious effort to avoid yielding to the pressure from those who are apparently sympathetic to those working frantically to undermine the nation’s security.
He urged public to ignore all insinuations inferring religious or political connotations to the security measures put in place in Maiduguri airport.
“The intention has never been to jeopardize the airlifting of pilgrims as has been wrongly portrayed. The restriction in the airport is purely for security reasons,” he insisted.