Labour Party Campaign Organisation and aviation authorities have clashed over alleged grounding of the aircraft meant to convey the party’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi and his running mate, Datti Ahmed, to Ibadan, Oyo State for the party’s campaign rally.
The Obi-Datti Media Office has also also raised the alarm over reports that the collection of Permanent Voter Cards, PVCs, had some hitches across the country.
The party had claimed that the powers that be had grounded the aircraft at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, but the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, which is the regulatory agency, denied that any plane was grounded, adding that the pilot of the aircraft only made an air return after noticing some faults in the plane.
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigerian, FAAN, in its reaction, said it was not aware of any such grounding of aircraft meant to fly the Labour Party team.
Diran Onifade, head of media for the LP campaign, said in a statement yesterday that the Obidient plane was grounded for “regulatory reasons”, and asked supporters of the party to ignore “mischievous rumours” suggesting the plane was impounded.
“The Obidient plane was grounded today (yesterday) by the powers that be ‘for regulatory reasons’ only. Please ignore any mischievous rumour. Our massive rally in Ibadan is going on as planned,” the statement read.
Obi is one of the leading candidates for the 2023 presidential election, alongside Atiku Abubakar of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP; Bola Tinubu of All Progressives Congress, APC; and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP..
Reacting to the allegation, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, spokesperson, Sam Adurogboye, said that the agency did not ground any aircraft as reported.
He said: “I understand NCAA did not ground any aircraft today (yesterday). The aircraft being said to be grounded is mere sensationalism.
“The reason is that the flight crew made an air return soon after takeoff and had issues they needed to come back and correct.
“This is what is termed as safety precautionary flight. Let’s be careful not to drag NCAA into politics in its operations. Our mandate is to ensure the safety of all aircraft operating in Nigeria airspace, regardless of whom they carry.
“Presidential candidates of all parties in the country have been flying around and NCAA’s mandate is to ensure that every aircraft flying meets safety standard.
“We have been grounding planes not fit for flying before now. When former President, Olusegun Obasanjo was campaigning for a second term, he wanted to use a particular plane donated by a Nigerian. We noticed that the aircraft was not fit for flying, we grounded it.”
Similarly, the spokesperson of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, Faithful Hope-Ivbaze, said they were not aware of any flight being grounded at the Abuja airport.
She said: “We are airport operators and not in charge of regulating flights movement. We cannot comment on political issues.”
Obi-Datti Campaign raise alarm over attempts to sabotage PVC collection
Meanwhile, the Obi-Datti Media Office has raised alarm over reports reaching it that the collection of Permanent Voter Cards is not going smoothly in some centers across the country.
It said it’s attention was drawn in particular to Lagos State where in some identified areas, prospective voters wishing to collect their voter’s cards were being frustrated with all kinds of excuses to disrupt the PVC collection.
The Media Office said in a statement issued in Abuja: “We are also aware of the large inducement to some personnel of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC in Lagos to lure them into the dubious nefarious act.
“When we recently charged President Muhammedu Buhari and the INEC Chairman Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu to walk their talk of their promise to conduct free and fair elections in 2023, we expect that they should be concerned about all pre-election day activities.
“Concentrating only on Election Day activities while the major rigging is taking place ahead of the election is counter productive and will defeat all the good intentions of the President and the commission.
“There should be no preferential treatment of any area or individuals as being reported in Lagos state and where such exist should discontinue immediately and affected commission officials seriously reprimanded.
“Obi-Datti Media Office expects the Commission even before now to have drummed it into the ears of their staff, the critical importance of this election to the survival of the country and the need to make their patriotic contributions at their various levels by religiously playing by the rules in all they do before , during and after the election.
“Also of curious interest to the Obi-Datti group is the large number of underaged voters registered by INEC officials and to demand that those Commission personnel involved in this should be identified, isolated and prosecuted as electoral offenders.
“Not to do that immediately by the commission is to look at the presence of a rat in your kitchen and expect to have all your items intact.”
The Obi-Datti Media Office claimed it was privy to credible intelligence that some politicians and political parties, aware that the BVAS voting arrangement might be difficult to manipulate, had resolved to start the election maneuvering from the stage of PVC registration and collection.
It appealed to INEC and relevant security agencies to see any move to undermine the electoral process as a huge crime against the state and should be so treated.
“We finally urge all Nigerians particularly the Obidient family to remain resolute and ensure they resist any anti democratic moves against free, fair and credible elections in 2023. Taking back Nigeria is an inevitable duty for all patriotic citizens,“ the statement added.