Nigeria Risks Influx of Illegal Arms through Airstrips

16 Nov 2012

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  IGP, Mohammed Abubakar

Chinedu Eze

There are indications that illicit goods, including arms could be flown into the country through the numerous airstrips that dot the nation’s landscape.

THISDAY investigations revealed that concerned aviation authorities did not know the number of airstrips in the country, which keeps on proliferating as the number of private jet owners continued to increase.

A former top official of the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) told THISDAY that there were three types of airstrips: those under the full control of the relevant agencies and which are under the radar surveillance with control of the Air Traffic Controllers; those under advisory control and others under no control.

There are fears that aircraft laden with arms could be delivering them into the country through these uncontrolled airstrips, although this is yet to be confirmed by any authorised security agency.

The source told THISDAY: “The airspace is not classified, so it is porous and not secure. Airspaces classified from A to D are controlled while class E is not controlled. Flights can bring in arms through these airstrips. It is possible, but this is a problem of regulation because the airspace should have been classified and the airstrip should be monitored.”

Another source also told THISDAY that the Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria (TRACON) did not cover some of these airstrips because they did not have coordinates. “When aircraft is going to these airstrips nobody monitors it but the areas under the coverage of the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency is known as controlled airspace and they have Instrument Landing System (ILS) and Very High Frequency Omnidirectional Radio Range (VOR).”
The source acknowledged that there has been proliferation of airstrips attributing the problem to politicians who had developed a penchant for private jets and now indiscriminately develops airstrips in their bases.

The source noted that politics had eroded the aviation industry, which used to be very highly restricted in the past, remarking that from consumer protection, airlines regulation to monitoring of aircraft in the airspace, there has been discernible laxity “in the past few years.”

But spokesman of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Sam Adurogboye, told THISDAY: “Airstrips are under the control of the Federal Ministry of Aviation. The Ministry is in the best position to answer enquiry on them because that is the position of the law.

“NCAA only provides safety oversight for them; their locations are known to us by virtue of their being registered with the Ministry. It is not true that there are airstrips which location is not known to us. That will be a violation and criminal.”

Many in the aviation industry believe that Nigeria has about 400 airstrips in the country and still growing as many government officials, big companies and highly placed individuals in society want an airport or airstrip close to his place of operation or residence.

In the past there were efforts to control the establishment of airstrips and aerodromes in the country but with the alleged erosion of the aviation sector by politics, the industry might have lost the last buffer against the excesses of politicians.

Tags: Business, Nigeria, Featured, Influx, Illegal, Airstrips

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