France has admitted the ownership of the cargo plane that was impounded by military authorities at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano on Saturday.
The French Ambassador to Nigeria, Jacques Labriolle, said this in a statement made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Abuja.
Labriolle said that the flight was covered by a diplomatic clearance given by the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja.
“A Russian commercial plane carrying two light Gazelle helicopters belonging to the French Army has unexpectedly landed in Kano on Saturday, Dec. 6, early in the afternoon.
“On Dec. 6, the French armed forces had chartered a flight on the Russian commercial company “224 Flight Unit”, to ship two light helicopters from Bangui to N’Djamena.
“The shipment is organised as the size of the French military intervention in CAR is being reduced, as was earlier announced by the French Authorities.
“The cargo airplane, an Antonov 124, had a regular flight plan from Bangui to N’Djamena .
“The flight was covered by a diplomatic clearance given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he said.
Labriolle said “the freight consisted of two ‘’Gazelle’’ helicopters – a 4 seater light liaison helicopter, with spare-parts and maintenance items.
According to him, two French military non-commissioned officers escorted the equipment as passengers.
“As the aircraft was approaching N’Djamena, the air traffic conditions were too dense to authorise the landing of the aircraft.
“And the Antonov had to divert to an alternate international airport.
“The closest airport facility being Kano, the Russian crew decided to fly there, to refuel, and to take off again to N’Djamena Airport.”
He said due to the nationality of the aircraft and the nature of the cargo, the Nigerian airport authorities checked the flight plan, the clearance and the cargo manifest.
Labriolle explained that official information had been supplied by the French Embassy in Nigeria.
“The Nigerian federal and airport authorities, being satisfied with the documents and the genuine character of the flight, have announced that the plane will be authorised to pursue its flight to N’Djamena.
“Contrary to some press reports, there was absolutely no weapon, and no ammunition on board the aircraft.
“The use of chartered flights of various nationalities for military cargo transport is a standard international practice,”he said.
According to him, It is used by many nations, and is coherent with commercial competition to reduce the cost of such transport operations.
“The use of Russian companies to transport French military equipment is common practice,” he added.
The ambassador explained that the move of the helicopters between CAR and Chad was part of the French effort to support regional cooperation against terrorism.
According to him, the move was part of the agreement reached by the Heads of State of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon during the security summit held in Paris in May 2014.