Gives reason for flight diversions
Justifies $500m NTA Loan
By Emmanuel Elebeke
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alh. Lai Mohammed says no amount of distraction and intimidation would make President Mohammadu Buhari resign because he has the overwhelming mandate of Nigerians over the affairs of the country.
The Minister who spoke at a press briefing on Thursday was responding to those calling on the President to resign insisted that the President would continue to preside over the affairs of the country till the expiration of his tenure in May 2023 since he still enjoys the same mandate given to him by the majority of the populace.
The Minister acknowledged that the country is facing security challenges, but stated that the challenges are being tackled headlong.
Recall that concerned Nigerians including the National Assembly, Northern elders forum, Ohaneze, Afenifere, PANDEF, CAN and other notable Nigerians have called on President to sack his service Chiefs while others called for his own resignation.
‘‘To those asking Mr. President to resign, I wish to say this: Mr. President will not resign. He has the overwhelming mandate of Nigerians to preside over the affairs of the country till the expiration of his tenure in May 2023.’’
‘‘There had been some red herrings in recent times, including those calling for the resignation of Mr. President or the sack of the security chiefs. I just want to say that the government, which has provided and continues to provide the military and the security agencies with the wherewithal, believes in their ability to tackle insecurity. These challenges will be successfully tackled.
‘‘I will, however, advise all commentators, especially political and religious leaders, to be very careful at this time not to aggravate the situation with incendiary comments, comments that cash in on our religious, ethnic and political fault lines to further divide us. The kind of comments that have been attributed to some leaders, especially religious leaders, are incendiary and reckless. Leaders should be part of solutions to problems, rather than aggravating situations.’’
On the recent disruption of international flights to the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, the Minister, explained that the diversion was caused by the ongoing upgrade of major international airports in the country in its commitment to passenger safety and security.
According to him, who apologized for the inconveniences suffered by travellers said that the upgrade by Federal Government involves navigational facilities at some major airports across the country, among which is the MMIA, Lagos.
The Mohammed International Airport in Lagos had diverted to other airports within and outside the country due to adverse weather conditions at the airport, leading to a debate on the state of the navigational aids at the airport.
‘‘Let me apologize to all our citizens and other travellers who have had to endure inconveniences resulting from the diversion of their flights. This is highly regretted.
‘’In its commitment to passenger safety and security, the Federal Government has recently taken the decision to upgrade the navigational facilities at some major airports across the country. Consequently, the navigational aids at airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt, Asaba, etc. were all marked for an upgrade from Category II Instrument Landing System (CAT II ILS) to top-of-the-class CAT III ILS.
‘’Some airlines opted to divert their flights to Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana, which, by the way, does not even have a CAT II ILS but where the weather was not as adverse as that in Lagos.
‘’Many travellers bound for Nigeria became stranded. Again, this is much regretted. Of course, the same flights could have diverted to Abuja, which has a perfectly-functioning CAT III ILS and where flights to Lagos are regular. But they instead chose to fly to Accra.
‘’Some commentators have alleged that perhaps the CAT III ILS was not bought or installed in Lagos and Abuja. This is not true. The equipment was indeed procured and installed in both airports. But for the hitch I referred to earlier, there would have been no disruptions at the MMA. The accusation of ineptitude against aviation officials is misplaced. Otherwise, the Abuja CAT III ILS would not have been working perfectly now
‘’May I also inform you all that a number of airports around the world, even in the advanced world, don’t even have CAT III ILS. This is because they feel that because adverse weather is only for a short period in a year, they don’t feel that the kind of huge cost that is required to acquire it is justified. Even the Kotoka International Airport that most flights were diverted to does not have CAT III ILS.
‘’The weather phenomenon that reduced visibility at the International wing of the MMA is not unique to Nigeria. As some flights were being diverted from the Lagos airport, over 200 flights were either being diverted or canceled at Heathrow in London. I am happy to announce that the two runways at the airport in Lagos have now been calibrated for CAT III ILS and NOTAM sent out,’’ the minister explained.
On the $500million loan, Mohammed said it was wrong to report that the loan is being sought for the NTA alone, even when the loan is for three major projects.
He listed the projects to include: construction of a headquarters complex and transmission network for Integrated Television Services (ITS), the FG-owned signal distributor that is a major component of the country’s Digital Switch Over (DSO); building an ultra-modern Media City in Ikorodu that will have the following facilities and digitization of NTA stations.’
On Amnesty International’s accusation that the military burnt some villages and forcefully displaced the residents, the Minister said that though, the military had denied the allegation, he advised the AI to always cast themselves in the league of Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists when carrying out its findings and stop painting the military as bad guys.
‘’They should and stop the growing practice of constantly attacking the military and casting them as the bad guys when all they are doing is putting their lives on the line to fight terrorists who have no respect for the sanctity of life, who willfully go after women and children, who attack houses of worship without respect or allegiance to any religion.
‘’Amnesty International should stop providing succor for terrorists by attributing their atrocities to our troops. Our soldiers, who are defending the country, are guided by extant rules of engagement and operational codes of conduct. They should not be made to look like the aggressors here,’’ he added.
Meanwhile, the minister further revealed that the ministry is planning a major international conference that will bring together the tech companies, media practitioners, policymakers and others as part of efforts to tackle this growing incidence of fake news in the country.
Mohammed, who cited some recent cases of fake news widely circulated in the social media added that the Federal government would soon Inaugurate Stakeholders Committee on Fake News by March 2nd, 2020. These he said are part of measures to check the spread of the scourge.