Lagos airport lacks capacity for foreign carriers’ flight diversion, says Ojikutu
- FG may allow regional flights for MMA2
There are indications that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) would begin to plan diversion of flights to Lagos as foreign airlines have maintained that they would rather fly to Lagos than operate to Kaduna Airport following plans to shut the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, for a total rehabilitation of the airport’s runway.
If the airlines make good their plans to come to Lagos rather than Kaduna, it would put pressure on the existing facilities at the Lagos airport which is in dire need of upgrade.
Experts are suggesting that the Abuja airport, which is regarded as the second busiest airport in Nigeria behind Lagos, has just little passenger traffic below the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
Aviation security consultant, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), said the country may be in for serious problem because the Lagos airport does not have the facility to handle additional flights of such magnitude.
The Lagos airport does not have enough carousels, avio bridges and capacity for additional traffic. Ojikutu suggested that for the period when Abuja would be closed to traffic, the Lagos airport should be prepared for intercontinental and continental flights while the Murtala Muhammed Airport 2 (MMA2) should be prepared for regional flights.
He also suggested that the Minna airport should be readied for day operations and Kaduna airport for night operations.
The management of Bi- Courtney Aviation Service Limited (BASL) had recently obtained authorisation from the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to commence regional operations at MMA2 as set out in the concession agreement between the two, but this still requires regulatory approval from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) before commencing operations.
BASL said the delay in obtaining NCAA’s approval has nothing to do with the size of its apron or any other operational issue, explaining that various teams of inspectors from NCAA and other statutory agencies, including the Department of State Security (DSS), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and the Port Health Service supervised its preparation for the international operations to ensure that it complied with all the requirements.
Some foreign airlines are contemplating not to operate into Kaduna Airport as rehabilitation of work commences on the total overhauling of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Two of the airlines who spoke to New Telegraph on strict condition of anonymity said they are looking at the security measures put in place by government and would consider if they are adequate for the safety of their passengers and crew.
The sources, who work for two big European carriers, said they are considering sending a proposal to the Federal Government to allow them operate their Abuja flights to Lagos to save them the stress of operating to Kaduna.
They noted that they might be forced to quit operations to Kaduna until the Abuja airport, which repairs starts on March 8, 2017, is fixed.
If the carriers withdraw their services from Kaduna, this might lead to huge capacity and influx of passengers to Lagos as seat capacity may not be enough for the teeming passengers, except the carriers change to bigger aeroplane to accommodate the travellers.
Experts said this may also disrupt international travel within that period as many from the Northern parts of Nigeria might put on hold their journeys until the Abuja aerodrome is repaired.
The Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, had said that the closure of the Abuja airport is proposed to last for six weeks. During the period of closure, Kaduna International Airport shall serve as the alternative.
Following the proposed closure of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, the Federal Executive Council (FEC), recently approved N1.1 billion for the repairs of the Kaduna Airport terminal. According to the minister, “the contractor has accepted to work within that six months.”
Sirika had stated that the imperative to shutdown of the airport for a period of six weeks was as a result of negligence in terms of maintenance of the runway by previous governments, adding that this administration with safety and security as its priority, has decided to face the problem head-on.