By Kingsley Omonobi
Military authorities yesterday said the Ukranian cargo aircraft loaded with arms and ammunition, which was seized at the Malam Aminu Kano International Airport last week, was the type of aircraft used for arms smuggling and that they have no reason not to believe that the arms were not meant for militants in the Niger Delta.
According to the military, whether the cache of weapons were destined for Equitorial Guinea or Niger Delta, it is one and the same thing as MEND and the militants in the Niger Delta have been incontrovertibly linked to the destabilization attempts in the two regions (Equitorial Guinea and Niger Delta).
In a statement, the Joint Task Force (JTF), insisted that the large consignment of arms and ammunition seized in the Ukrainian cargo aircraft were destined for the use of militants in the Niger Delta, adding that it did not come to it â€œas a surprise.â€
The cargo plane, with registration number UR-CAK, had landed at the airport at 4 a.m. on Wednesday for refuelling.
It reportedly originated from the former Soviet Republic of Ukraine and was allegedly heading for neighbouring Equatorial Guinea.
On board the aircraft were eight crates of various weapons and ammunition including howitzers, rifles, machine guns, rocket launchers and mortars.
The plane ran into troubled waters after refueling when officials of the Nigeria Customs Service and Nigeria Immigration Service noticed some discrepancies in the information supplied by the crew in the flight discharge form.
They, therefore, demanded to know the actual content of the aircraft.
The seven member crew, along with a Nigerian, are in the custody of the security agencies for further investigation.
According to the statement issued by Col. Rabe Abubakar, JTF spokesman, all the scenario involving the cargo aircraft and its content bears all the hallmarks of arms smuggling.
He added that the authenticity of the documents presented by the crew of the cargo aircraft were of no consequence as all known illegal arms transfer worldwide have always had â€œfalse shipment documents with unintended destinations while landing in the intended country of delivery by giving a false reason or excuse of either fuelling or technical problems.â€
Abubakar stated that the propeller type of the cargo aircraft involved is the choice aircraft designed for short take-off and landing even in unconventional jungle airstrips and is widely used for illegal arms and drug trafficking.
Continuing JTF said the clandestine dimension of the militants and militancy in the region (Niger Delta) should worry every right-thinking Nigerian whether at home or abroad while calling for sober reflection and need to support the JTF in its efforts.
Describing the trend as â€œuglyâ€ and with â€œgrievous consequencesâ€, the JTF Spokesman however assured that the Task Force will continue to discharge its â€œassigned responsibilities of clamping down on crime and criminality in the Niger Delta in all their manifestations no matter the challenges.â€
ItÂ pledged to do so â€œwith all sense of urgency and professionalism that our training has taught usâ€ saying â€œthe recent arrest of the foreign aircraft carrying large consignments of illegal arms and ammunition and linking it with militants in the Niger Delta by the patriotic Nigeria Press did not come to the JTF as a surprise.
â€œWe have overtime, consistently alerted peace-loving citizens of Nigeria and the international community of the grave dangers of militancy in the Niger Delta as exemplified by the likes of MEND which portend a serious threat to national security. Thank God, with each passing day we are being proved rightâ€.
â€œWhether the illegal arms and ammunition were destined for Equatorial Guinea or Niger Delta is one and same thing as MEND and the militants in the Niger Delta have been incontrovertibly linked to the destabilization attempts in the two regions (Equatorial Guinea and Niger Delta).
Illegal arms transfer world-wide, has the common characteristics of a Cargo Plane having false shipment documents with unintended destinations while landing in the intended country of delivery by giving a false reason or excuse of either fuelling or technical problems.
â€œFurthermore, the propeller type plane used in this illegal shipment at Kano is designed for short take-off and landing even in unconventional jungle airstrips, and is used worldwide for illegal arms and drug trafficking. This indicates a clandestine dimension of the militants and militancy in the region and Nigeria as a whole. This trend should worry every right-thinking Nigerian whether at home or abroad and calls for sober reflection and need to support the JTF in its efforts.
â€œConsequently, the JTF, being a security outfit for the restoration of law and order in the Niger Delta wishes to sensitize all peace-loving and patriotic Nigerians, to this ugly trend militancy is taking in the Niger Delta region with its grievous consequences.
The JTF will continue to discharge its assigned responsibilities of clamping down on crime and criminality in the Niger Delta in all their manifestations no matter the challenges. We will do this with all sense of urgency and professionalism that our training has taught us. We will never waver or slow down, this, we assure all law abiding citizens of the region and we urge them to continually partner with us in order to restore law and order.â€
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