The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Wednesday evening, arrived in Abuja from Saudi Arabia, after his eight-day official visit to the kingdom.
Buhari’s NAF 001 Boeing 737 jet arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport at 5.08pm after taking a longer flight path to avoid the Sudanese airspace due to ongoing conflict between the military and the members of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.
A statement by the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said Buhari arrived in Abuja “after nearly seven hours for a four to five-hour Jeddah-Abuja flight due to the ongoing situation in Sudan that warrants the avoidance of the country’s entire airspace by air traffic.”
Sudan’s civil aviation authority had notified that airspace over the country was closed, with a suspension of air navigation services within the Khartoum flight information region.
Notice To Airmen information issued on behalf of the Sudanese regulator stated that “due to security reasons” air navigation services were “not available” within Khartoum FIR and also above 24,500ft over neighbouring South Sudan.
The violent encounter between the warring parties began on April 15 and had resulted in the destruction of two parked aircraft, including Saudia’s Airbus A330-300, which was preparing for departure to Riyadh, and a Boeing 737-800 operated by Ukraine’s SkyUp Airlines, according to multiple sources.
The RSF reportedly attempted to take over the airport, which led to an exchange of gunfire with the military, and the conflict has raised concerns about the safety of air travel in Sudan.
Shehu said, “The rerouted aircraft flew from Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia through Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, DRC, Central African Republic, Cameroon and eventually Nigeria.”
Upon arrival, the President was received at the airport by the Chief of Staff, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Danmallam Mohammed, representing the Inspector-General of Police, and the Director-General, Department of State Services Yusuf Bichi.
Buhari, who had been in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, for an eight-day official trip, also performed Umrah (Lesser Hajj) and met with his counterpart from the Republic of Chad, Mahamat Deby-Itno, where he condemned the Sudan conflict, calling for a ceasefire.