The First Lady of Nigeria, Patience Jonathan came under criticism yesterday as news of the alleged closure of the nation’s airspace for a Presidential jet conveying her to Lagos on Sunday went viral on BlackBerry Messenger and online social networks.

The closure was said to have prevented the pilot of the distressed Dana Air’s plane from making an emergency landing at the airport. Reports claimed that although the Dana plane had an engine failure, the distressed aircraft could have made it to the airport if it was not delayed by the VIP movement.

However, in response to this, the Special Assistant (Media) to the Minister of Aviation, Mr. Joe Obi, said the airspace was never closed for the First Lady on Sunday. He noted that the First Lady arrived in Lagos at about 4.45pm on Saturday, 2nd June, 2012 and only departed for Abuja on Monday, the 4th of June, 2012 at 1.30pm, whereas the ill-fated Dana flight 0992 departed Abuja on Sunday, 3rd of June, 2012 at 2.54pm and its last contact with the Lagos Control Tower was at 3.42pm as has already been announced.

The Allegations:

“Is there any way of getting confirmation about news I’m just getting that the Dana plane was distressed for a while but could not make an emergency landing because the airspace was closed for 2 hours for – the Presidential Jet carrying Dame Patience Goodluck Jonathan.

Private jet owners who had to hover in the air same time leaked this. This was apparently the reason local news didn’t report the crash for so long till CNN and foreign news stations started reporting it.

Local news was ‘blacked out’ trying to kill the story of the airspace being closed while a distressed plane couldn’t land. It would be shocking if so.

Though there was engine failure there was still time for the plane to have landed apparently. You do know anyway that the airspace is closed for up to 2hours each time the Presidential Jet needs to go into the air? 2 hours for a 15minute take off or landing! And this jet is used by President, VP, President’s wife and if I recall David Mark. It’s almost a daily occurrence I’ve been told by airline staff when it caught me out on a trip.”

The rumours prompted a response from the Office of the First Lady:

I am responding to the rumour mongers because of the involvement of the script writers of those that wish to heat up the polity of Nigeria at every event or given opportunity.

Like they have always done, using every opportunity to make Nigeria ungovernable.

Why would a group of people in different disguises want to play politics with this sad event just to get back to political rivals or superiors?

This morning, reports from one Ade Atobatele..Information Technology and Services has filtered the air.

Don’t know which of the firms that is, claimed that the Dana Airline misfortune was caused by the closure of airspace for the first lady’s aircraft.

He was quoted as saying he was informed by a pilot of a private Jet that also had to hover in the air for 2 hours 15mins before the airspace opened for landing.

He has conned his story that the social, electronic and print media has started reporting it without verifying his source.

Let Ade Atobatele (if he does exist) and Nigerians know that the Nigerian Air space can only be closed for 10 minutes only when an Aircraft conveying the President approaches an airport and 10 minutes after landing.

A total accumulation of 20 minutes by regulations. And let Ade and Nigerians also note that the Air space can never be closed for an aircraft conveying the first lady or any other individual in Nigeria.

Let Nigerians know that regulations gives a code red preference to any aircraft on “May Day” (in danger) distress against any other aircraft even if it’s presidential.

A presidential jet will be asked to divert towards a military airbase in case of a conflict in interest of landing.

As we are aware, flight 0992 had called for MAY DAY 11mins before its ETA (estimated time of arrival) at 11 mins, the aircraft had prepared for landing.

No aircraft is allowed to prepare for landing in an airspace that is closed.

20mins to landing, an aircraft as large as the boeing MD-83 can only commence descend from its cruise altitude.

Where then is the logic in Ade’s story?

Let Ade also take note that the traffic control unit at the airport has confirmed that the air space was actually closed for 15mins for the Dana Air flight 0992 to perform an emergency landing before the unfortunate incidence.

Please I admonish all readers to disregard the allegation against the office and person of the First lady in their attempt to incite Nigerians.

While we all pray that the Good Lord grants Nigerians and most especially the families of those that lost their lives to the sad incident the fortitude to bear the loss.

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