The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has debunked claims by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that bad weather was partly responsible for the logistic challenges it faced in the distribution of materials meant for last Saturday’s elections, resulting in its postponement. General Manager, Public Affairs of NAMA, Mr. Khalid Emele, in a statement made available to newsmen in Lagos, yesterday, said there was no bad weather and no disruption of flights on February 16, 2019.
Emele said that rather, the airspace management body ensured a 24-hour operation at all Nigerian airports on February 15 to facilitate the transportation of materials by the INEC to designated points nationwide.
Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu had, at a meeting with stakeholders in the wake of the postponement of the election, explained that bad weather prevented the airlift of sensitive electoral materials to some states of the federation, among other logistical challenges.
“In preparing for the 2019 general elections, we have come face-to-face with the realities of conducting such an extensive national deployment of men and materials in a developing country like ours….
“Unfortunately, in the last one week, flights within the country have been adversely affected by bad weather.
For instance, three days ago, we were unable to deliver materials to some locations due to bad weather. We, therefore, had to rely on slow-moving long haulage vehicles to locations that can be serviced by air in spite of the fact that we created five zonal airport hubs Abuja (North-Central), Port Harcourt (South-South and South-East), Kano (North-West), Maiduguri and Yola (North-East) and Lagos (South-West) to facilitate the delivery of electoral logistics,” he said.
However, the spokesman of NAMA said the agency provided a 24-hour navigation services based on the directive from the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika.
Emele insisted that there was no disruption of air traffic services before or on the day of the election. According to him, this was in keeping with the agency’s mandate of providing uninterrupted, safe, effective, efficient, and economic air navigation services in the country.
“NAMA wishes to reassure all airspace users and the general public that the Nigerian airspace shall remain open for all airspace users before, during and after the rescheduled 2019 general elections.
Thus, the agency has put in place appropriate contingency measures to ensure safe flight operations within the period, as well as possible extension of operational hours of any domestic airport when the need arises.
“Therefore, airline operators, the travelling public and other service providers who are dependent on the agency’s services, are hereby advised to go ahead with their businesses as usual,” Emele said.
The INEC boss had announced a postponement of the Presidential and National Assembly elections at 3:20 a.m. on Saturday, hours to the opening of the crucial polls.
This decision has attracted a lot of criticisms from the political parties and other key stakeholders. Yakubu said that apart from the logistical challenges occasioned by weather, there were attempts by some yet-to-be-identified persons to sabotage the commission’s preparations through arson, manifesting in fire outbreaks at INEC facilities in different parts of the country