The Director of Defence Information, Maj. Gen Chris Olukolade, has said security considerations were responsible for the closure of the Maiduguri Airport.
Olukolade denied reports that the Airport was closed to stop pilgrims from being airlifted to Saudi Arabia.
He explained that the Airport was closed down because of the ongoing military operation.
He added that the Airport was shut after an assessment of the security situation and the realisation that such a massive airlift of passengers was not proper in view of the security threat in the area.
He said those in charge of the airlifting did not plan for the installation of security equipment in view of the massive movement of passengers.
“Contrary to reports in many newspapers and online media claiming that the Maiduguri airport was closed to deny its use for the airlift of pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, the airport was only observing restriction of the facility to military use in the light of ongoing operations in the area.
“This followed security assessment of the situation indicating that a sudden massive airlift could not be permitted in the light of the threats and ongoing operations in the area.
“Apparently, the implications of such massive airlift and traffic from the facility in the light of present security situation was not appreciated early enough by those planning the exercise to enable proper security procedure be installed for the important exercise,” the statement read in part
Olukolade said that an alternative arrangement with the state authorities had been put in place to continue with the exercise which, he said, had been going on smoothly.
The Defence Spokesman urged the public to exercise caution to avoid playing into the hands of those deliberately undermining national security.
“An alternative arrangement was however worked out in concert with the relevant authorities in the state, to enable the movement proceed. This process has continued smoothly despite the inconveniencies which will be ameliorated as the exercise progresses.”