NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 25 – The fate of seven Kenyans and five airline crew who have been detained in Nigeria since June 3, while deporting controversial businessman Anthony Chinedu and his two accomplices, remains a misty affair.
While the government insists that the matter is being resolved ‘amicably’ and that the Kenyans are safe, Nigeria has declined to release the plane together with the Kenyan officials and crew.
On Tuesday, Cabinet Secretary in charge of Interior and Coordination of National Government Joseph ole Lenku adamantly declined to divulge details of their welfare instead asking journalists “to support the government.”
Lenku, who had invited journalists to the Immigration headquarters in Nairobi where he had gone to acquaint himself with the department, turned down attempts seeking to know what the fate of the detained officials was regardless of the fact that they have now been held for about three weeks.
“We are done talking about Chinedu and we will not go back there. So I propose that you either allow us to have our meeting (with the Immigration officers) or we call our meeting another day,” he said while asking journalists to leave.
Lenku would not even reveal the total number of passengers on board, given that Nigeria is accusing Kenya of flouting flight safety regulations.
He further declined to comment on concerns raised as to why Kenya decided to charter a private plane instead of putting Chinedu and the two other deportees on a commercial one.
“I would like us to look at the deportation of Chinedu as an obligation of the government to its citizens to ensure that they are protected from individuals who might not have their interests at heart. I would like to call upon the press to support the government when it is protecting the country,” he demanded.
Government Spokesman Muthui Kariuki later explained that Nigeria had not yet made any indication as to when it would release the officials even as it maintained that they were not hostages.
“Our High Commissioner in Abuja (Nigeria) has been in constant touch with the Kenyans to ensure that they do not suffer any discomfort; although I cannot give a timeline on when they will be back, they will be here soon,” he said.
Kariuki also maintained that Kenya had only cleared 15 passengers and could not explain where the additional three passengers came from.
He added that concerns surrounding the costs of impounding the plane would be released at a later date.
“I and the Kenya government can only say that the people who can really explain are the Nigerians. According to me, the aircraft had 15 people including the crew. I have heard that there were other people on the aircraft but you know government doesn’t operate on rumours,” he retorted.
Reports indicate that Kenyan officials had told Nigeria that the plane would only be ferrying 15 passengers but when it touched down, Nigerian officials realised that there were 18 passengers on board.
Nigeria on Friday released a statement saying that it would continue holding the Kenyans and Nigerian deportees until a routine security check on the plane is completed.
“On June 3 at about 18:36 hours, a Kenya aircraft with registration number 5Y-SAX, owned by Cavoc Airlines arrived in Nigeria with a total of 18 persons. Among them, 15 were crew members while three were passengers,” read the Nigerian statement.
“The three Nigerians were said to be deportees from Kenya, but the security agencies in Lagos discovered that certain procedures were not complied with and subsequently grounded the aircraft.”
Mathioya MP Clement Wambugu has in the meantime sought a statement from the government on the touchy issue.
Leader of Majority Aden Duale promised to issue the statement in Parliament on Wednesday.