There is palpable tension in the nation’s aviation sector over the absence of runway lights at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos.
Also, at the Port Harcourt International Airport, reports of theft of critical aviation equipment in addition to the failure of aviation equipment, some of them archaic, are rife.
Aviation stakeholders have argued that the sector may be set for another serious incident if the above-mentioned challenges are not addressed.
The aviation industry has experienced a boom lately due to growing insecurity across the country which has made air travel the preferred option as most people are now scared of travelling by road.
However, safety concerns are mounting over the increasing level of vandalism and use of archaic navigational aids.
Some stakeholders said that without adequate navigational aids in place to enhance flight operations, aircraft and passengers are at risk, and that poor communication increases stress and reduces air safety.
For instance, while the domestic wing of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) has been without runway lights for the past 13 years, thereby making domestic airlines land at the international runway at night and taxi to the domestic wing, at the Port Harcourt airport, only three out of ten wind shear censors are said to be remaining on the runway.
The theft of critical aviation equipment at the Port Harcourt airport has, however, led to six serious air incidents during landing as reported by the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB).
Speaking to LEADERSHIP, the secretary general, Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), Group Capt. John Ojikutu (retd.), argued that vandalism and the failure of critical equipment at some of the nation’s airports are a recipe for disaster.
According to him, the nation should blame itself if the absence of critical equipment leads to serious incident, just as he expressed worry at the non-implementation of the various safety recommendations made by the AIB.
“We must commend those that brought to limelight vandalism and the failure of some critical safety equipment, that is, the wind shears censors and instrument landing system (ILS) at some of our airports. Without them, we would have continued to go along in circles until something catastrophic happens.
“These are critical equipment for providing safety services to air traffic, but we should ask those responsible for providing these critical services, how long has the stealing been going on and who in the airport did they report to?
“In Port Harcourt Airport, only three out of 10 wind shears censors were said to be left on the runway and the airport is one airport that has recorded more than six serious air incidents during landing as reported by the AIB investigations. Safety recommendations were made but how many of these recommendations have been implemented by the airport authority and Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), or enforced by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA)?
“For me, these and the absence of lights on MMA Runway 18L which has been there for over 13 years are very serious acts of neglect by the responsible authorities. We all should blame ourselves if something ever goes wrong at any of these airports.”
Ojikutu also raised concern over the lack of audit on facilities and services at the airports and said that “with the report coming out from the airport, the nation could be heading towards other serious air incidents.
“More than six serious incidents occurred at Port Harcourt airport alone during landing within two years and safety recommendations were made but the recurrence of the serious incidents should attract the attention of the NCAA, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and NIMET.”
“The intervention fund that we cry for and seemed to be dolled to the airlines alone should be extended to the service providers too, otherwise, with recent reports, we may be heading into another critical period as we had in 2000-2007,” he warned.
Also speaking, former secretary general, National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Comrade Yinka Abioye, said vandalism and theft of navigational equipment had become alarming threats to flight safety.
Abioye, in a chat with LEADERSHIP, urged the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) to immediately devise modern methods of monitoring equipment and navigational aids across the country.
He said, “Vandalism and stealing of navigational equipment are becoming new trends and alarming threats to flight safety. “Something drastic must therefore be done speedily about this unacceptable situation by those concerned such as the Nigeria Police attached to our airports, rather than stopping vehicles and searching them for whatever is not missing.
“They have a duty to provide secondary duties to FAAN through aviation security. There was a time when these bodies engaged in runway patrol, airside monitoring and surveillance. I cannot say specifically if this has been stopped and, if so, it must be reactivated immediately.
“Bearing in mind the safety and huge costs attached to the unwholesome vandalism and stealing of navigational aids and equipment, FAAN and NAMA should immediately devise modern methods of monitoring their equipment and navigational aids across the country.
“I must also remind ourselves that, as often said, a disgruntled worker is an accident waiting to happen. Do not forget that the equipment cannot be stolen and/or vandalised except by people who most likely have access to them. Some persons who may have been frustrated by the system may decide to tamper with them. There should therefore be an internal security system review, re-jig the relevant security apparatus for effective and efficient service delivery,” he said.