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Controversy Over Turkish Airlines Arms Shipment To Nigeria

Coordinating General Manager (Communications) for Aviation Parastatals, Mr. Yakubu Dati
Coordinating General Manager (Communications) for Aviation Parastatals, Mr. Yakubu Dati

There was controversy on Wednesday over reported arms shipment to Nigeria by two Turkish Airlines. The airline allegedly shipped weapons to unknown groups in the country, a development that AFP reports said was exposed by an incriminating phone call.

But the airline, with operations in the country, has denied the claim though it confirmed that it carried arms into Nigeria in accordance with international laws.

According to the French news agency, however, an Assistant Executive of the Turkish Airlines, Mehmet Karatas, in the leaked conversation allegedly told an advisor to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Mustafa Varank, that he felt guilty over the national flag carrier’s arms shipment to Nigeria.

AFP described the leaked conversation as the latest blow to Erdogan, who has been hit by a corruption probe ensnaring his key allies and a widening phone-tapping scandal.

“I do not know whether these (weapons) will kill Muslims or Christians. I feel sinful,” Karatas allegedly said in the tape, which was posted on YouTube.

The leaked call had the potential to harm the airline’s image, which is 49 per cent state-owned and is in an aggressive push to become a global player.

When contacted, the spokesperson, Aviation Parastatals Nigeria, Mr. Yakubu Dati, told one of our correspondents that he was not aware of the development and would not comment on it.

Reacting to the development, the General Manager, Turkish Airlines Incorporated, at Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Ahmet Can Akbuga, said the news was causing false valuation on public opinion.

Akbuga, in a statement, said the carriage of arms and military supplies by Turkish Airlines was being made through the framework of the relevant international laws and the International Air Transport Association rules, and in strict conformity with official procedures.

The statement reads in part, “On the carriage of arms, the forwarders and addressees can send their cargo with Turkish Airlines Cargo through the representative they have designated, after accomplishing the necessary official approval procedure from the relevant state authorities.

“Turkish Airlines Cargo effectuates such shipment again in strict conformity with the law and rules of the forwarders’ and addressees’ countries and by taking necessary security measures as being done by other air carriers.”

He noted that Turkish Airlines had not been undertaking the carriage of arms to/from the countries that United Nations Security Council had imposed arms ban on, or countries that lacked authority and/or under conflict.

“This is also the case for the country mentioned in the news, Turkish Airlines has not effectuated any carriage of arms to that country from Turkey nor from any country,” Akbuga said.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Navy on Wednesday said the Turkish Airlines recently brought arms into the country for it through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.

Navy spokesman, Commodore Kabiru Aliyu, who confirmed this, said the arms came in on March 11 and were subsequently inspected by its director in charge of combat.

He said the arms had been moved to the Naval Base on March 12.

The Navy spokesman said he was not aware of any arms importation for any group in the country outside of what was brought to the Navy.

Aviation officials on Wednesday however confirmed that most of the foreign airlines regularly brought into the country ammunition meant for the Armed Forces.

The arms, they said, usually went through strict documentation and among top ranking security and military officials at the airport.

The officials said it was unlikely that Boko Haram would bring in arms through a regular commercial airline.

One of the officials said, “Boko Haram would rather bring in arms through chartered planes and usually in clandestine means. If Boko Haram has to bring in arms, they would not bring it through means like those of commercial airlines. “Most times, arms coming into the country come under strict documentation. More so, security layers here are too many for them to scale through easily like that.”

Source: Punch

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