Security agents at the Aminu Kano International Airport yesterday seized a large cache of Russian made war weapons, including spare parts for Hilux vans, destined for neighbouring Chad Republic.
The items were being transported in a Russian cargo plane – Antonov 224 .
The plane and its crew were also arrested.
The security agencies have already begun investigation into the matter.
The plane, The Nation learnt, was on its way to Ndjamena, Chad but could not land there owing to bad weather.
Its pilot then sought permission from the Nigerian aviation authority to land in Kano until there would be an improvement in the weather situation in Chad.
Permission was duly granted at about 2am yesterday.
Once the plane landed, security operatives asked for the manifest from the pilot for screening only to discover that the aircraft was carrying weapons of war.
The aircraft with registration number AN 124-100-RAH 2038 was still being detained at the airport at press time.
Security agencies are interested in knowing the owners of the arms cache.
Investigation by our correspondent revealed that a vigilant staff from the Air Force Intelligence Unit intercepted the plane.
A reliable source, who spoke in confidence, said: “When the plane landed, everyone went about his normal business at the airport.
“But the Air Force Intelligence personnel braved all odds and insisted on the inspection of the Russian cargo plane. During the inspection, he discovered a cache of arms and ammunition which was being ferried to Chad.
“Parts of vehicles to be re-assembled in Ndjamena were also discovered. He immediately reported the findings at the Air Force Commandant Office at the airport. The Airport Commandant, Wing Commander Imoke ordered full inspection of the aircraft.
“The crew members were subsequently relocated to the Commandant’s office for detention and grilling. The development led to the drafting of more intelligence officers from the Army, the Department of State Security Service (DSS) and the Nigeria Police.
“After the red alert to relevant agencies in Abuja, the Brigade Commander of the Nigerian Army, the Director of SSS and the Commissioner of Police visited the airport and inspected the cargo plane.”
It was not immediately clear if the arms and ammunition were meant for either the Chadian government or any group or arms merchants based in Chad.
Another military source said last night that: “The intercepted plane and the crew members have not been released. We will not rush into doing so until full investigation has been concluded.
“We are inspecting relevant documents in the possession of the crew of the plane in order to be able to track down the sources of the arms and find out whether the transaction is legitimate or illegal.
“We will also establish diplomatic link with the Chadian government to ascertain if it actually ordered the importation of the arms and ammunition.
“We will be as fast as possible in the ongoing investigation.”
Confirming the seizure, the General Manager, Communications of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mr. Yakubu Datti, declined to disclose the contents of the aircraft to reporters.
Land locked Chad borders Borno State, the epicentre of the terror group Boko Haram.
Insurgents of the sect often cross the Nigeria/Chad border, attacking innocent Nigerians.
President Goodluck Jonathan has visited Ndjamena twice in the last three months to seek the co-operation of the Chadian authorities to curb the Boko Haram terrorism.
Only last week a delegation of Bring Back Our Girls which is pressing for the release of the over 200 Chibok girls captured by the sect visited the Chadian envoy in Nigeria to appeal to the authorities in his country to help in getting the girls released. Meanwhile, the Defence Headquarters yesterday confirmed that troops foiled a fresh attempt by Boko Haram to take over Ashaka town in Gombe State.
The DHQ said 10 soldiers died in the encounter with the insurgents while many Boko Haram terrorists were killed.
It explained that following defeat, Boko Haram ran away with three truckloads of bodies of their members killed.
The DHQ tweeted that: “Terrorists fleeing Ashaka on Thursday managed to retrieve three truckloads full of their dead members following the defeat and heavy casualty they suffered after a fierce battle with troops in the area.
“The terrorists, who had come in large number with heavy equipment and convoy of over 30 vehicles and a number of motor cycles, were on a mission to take control of Ashaka town, after they had operated in Bajoga and environ in Gombe state.
“Troops who got wind of their intention to overrun other towns pursued the terrorists while some also laid ambush for them. The terrorists were forced to abandon the mission when the troops proved unyielding.
“Most of the vehicles and equipment used by the terrorists for their mission were destroyed before they chose to flee the location.
“Over 10 soldiers however died in the battle while those who were wounded are being treated in military hospitals.”