Grounded plane has all required landing documents - Kenyan govt.

By The Rainbow

The row over expulsion of Nigerians by Kenya government is now shaping up as a major diplomatic test, even the government claims it obtained all required authorization to land in Nigeria.

This contradicts Nigerian government's explanation that the plane that couriered the deported Nigerians into the country breached security laws.

Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed said negotiations were going on between her office and Nigerian authorities.

She also insisted that the officials assigned to expel Chinedu and two of his compatriots had all the required travel documents including approval to land in Nigerian airports.

A Kenyan newspaper Sunday Nation has  reported that  the travel manifest in possession in its possession  shows that the plane carried the seven officials, five crew and the three deportees making a total of 15

But according to the Nigerian authorities, the impounded plane had 18 passengers. There was no clarity on whether the three were Kenyans or more Nigerians

Mystery surrounds the identity of three passengers aboard the plane used to deport Nigerian businessman Antony Chinedu amid claims by Nigerian authorities that the trio was not on the plane's official manifest.

The Nigerian government came out on Friday night to declare that it was the one holding the seven Kenyan government officials and five airline crew who had escorted Mr Chinedu and his compatriots, Christopher Nnanyelu and Oluwatosin Adebiyi.

And experts have cautioned that blunders in the procedure used to deport the Nigerians could cost the country millions of shillings in form of payments to the travel operator and affect the country's bilateral ties with the West African nation.

The controversy over the expulsion of the Nigerians suspected to be drug traffickers is now shaping up as a major diplomatic test for the Jubilee government.

In a statement on Friday, the Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria stated that the aircraft and its crew were impounded because they flouted 'laid down security procedures'.

'The security agencies in Lagos discovered that certain procedures were not complied with and subsequently grounded the aircraft,' said Mr Yakubu Dati, the authority's general manager for Public Affairs. 'That is why the aircraft has been grounded and it is going through security routine at the moment.'

The officials have been detained in Nigeria since June 3.

Mr Yakubu further said that the security agents in Lagos, in their routine checks, had 'discovered lapses' in procedures followed by the crew of aircraft, a DC-9 model.

'As soon as the grey areas are clarified, the aircraft will be released according to the laws of the land,' he promised, but left open the question of how much longer the Kenyans must wait.

One of the 'grey areas' is the number of passengers on board when it landed at the Murtala Mohammed Airport.

But the 'grey areas' could prove costly to the taxpayer, the aircraft operators and the Kenyan officials held in Nigeria. The plane is operated by the East African Safari Air Express (EASAX). In 2011, the aircraft stopped regular commercial flights, instead venturing into chartered services.

There has been no official statement on how much the government paid or how much loss the operator has incurred as the aircraft continues to be held in Lagos. On Friday, a company statement stated that they would not reveal the financial nature of the chartered service 'as that is commercially sensitive information'.

However, the company did confirm that they were hired only for a day. Two aviation experts estimated the cost of hiring a plane to Lagos to be between Sh10 million and Sh12 million for a day.

According to Gad Kamau, a chief pilot at Wilson Airport, it will be the duty of the government to pay the operators for the days the plane had been held.

The pilot explained that according to standard practice, the government will be billed by the hour, outside the one-day contract.