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APC delegation denied landing at Gombe Airport, airport was closed for a routine check fire tenders -Yakubu Datti

A chartered plane carrying officials of the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, was prevented from landing Thursday at the Gombe Airport because the pilot noticed a fire truck was parked on the runway.

The plane which took off from Abuja was conveying the APC officials to Gombe for the inauguration of the state’s interim Executive Committee of the party.

The leader of the delegation and former Minister of State for Power and Steel, Murtala Aliyu, informed PREMIUM TIMES over the telephone that relevant government agencies may be behind the incident.

“We had almost descended to Gombe Airport when the Pilot informed us that there was a truck on the runway and he cannot land, he also told us that he does not have enough fuel to go back to Abuja,” he said.

Mr. Aliyu said the pilot had no option but to take the risk of taking an emergency landing at Bauchi Airstrip.

When contacted, the spokesperson of Aviation agencies, Yakubu Datti, said the Airport was closed for a routine operation to check fire tenders.

He said it was observed that some of the fire trucks were out of shape; and according to regulations, all fire trucks at airports must be in good shape at all times before planes can land. He said authorities decided to conduct the operation Thursday because there was no scheduled flight.

“They decided to shut down the Airport and run the trucks because there were no scheduled flights and the shutdown was just for a few hours,” he said.

Mr. Aliyu, however, faulted the claim of the aviation spokesperson, saying the authorities should have let the pilot know before he took off from Abuja.

“The Pilot was in constant communication with the Control towers and there was no indication whatsoever that Gombe Airport was closed to traffic until we got there,” he said.

Mr. Datti, however, said such problems arise because some of the planes being used for chatter service are only registered overseas and conduct ‘Kabukabu’ business in Nigeria.

“Some of them don’t even understand most of the regulations, so if they want to operate they should come and register in Nigeria, as it is they register outside, pay insurance outside, hire foreign pilots and crew, you never hear a scheduled flight have this sort of problems,” he said.

Mr. Datti said aviation authorities take issues of safety very seriously and the fire tender
operations are ICAO requirements.

Mr. Aliyu said his delegation had to use vehicles from Bauchi back to Gombe to conduct the inauguration exercise. He, however, added that they were forced to stay the night in Bauchi because the airstrip there had no facility for night flights.

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