Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah
After many hiccups, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) seems to have found the solution to regular power outage at its airports, Chinedu Eze reports
Power outage at the busy airports like the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos has security, safety and facilitation implications.
A period of darkness at the airport renders security operatives immobile and ineffective. It creates the opportunity for evil doers to carry out their nefarious activities. It can help a terrorist smuggle dangerous weapon into the aircraft and if the outage affects the lighting at the runway, it can lead to a crash.
When there is outage, passenger check-in system is paralysed. On many occasions in Lagos both airline officials and security operatives resort to using torches and usually passengers mass at the security screening areas, known as central search and are sluggishly subjected to manual screening as heat almost literally scorches them, especially the children.
In fact, any airport where there is any type of power outage should have the lowest rating of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA), because in such an airport, it would be a breach of security for international airlines to operate.
This has happened many times at different major airports in Nigeria. But the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) is finally finding a solution to the epileptic power supply in many of these airports with effective and reliable secondary power source.
Few months ago there was constant power outage at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja that at a time paralysed airline operations, prompting flights to be divert to other airports, a situation that was extremely disconcerting to the passengers. Besides the discomfort, there was a particular international flight that was said to have zeroed in to land when the runway lights went off.
But such dangerous incident may not happen again as the electricity supply to the runway has been fortified.
According to the general manager, corporate communications of FAAN, Mr. Yakubu Dati, in view of the epileptic nature of electricity generation and distribution in the country and the need to guarantee safety of flight operations, FAAN has embarked on various power improvement projects at the airports.
He lamented that such critical institutions such as the airports cannot rely on power supply provided by the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) because of its hiccups in power supply and the undulating power surge, so generators have become the primary source of power supply instead of serving as a backup.
“All the major international airports of Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano have their entire power infrastructure upgraded and renewed to cope with the increasing demands and replaced in cases where they have become obsolete”, he added.
In the case of Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja, Dati said there was procurement of six new caterpillar, diesel generators, as well as upgrade and installation of 28 No. 11KV control panels, including three new and upgraded underground 11KV feeders to the international terminal building to replace the obsolete cable that were no longer in use.
But now the underground cables installed at the time the airport was built over 30 years ago, had lost the utility and had become aged and constituted a danger to the airport as they were gullible of igniting fire when there was pressure at PHCN’s power surge.
There was need then to remove all the old cables and replace them with new ones. This seems to have been done and in addition FAAN has dedicated one 11 KVA generator to the runway of the Lagos because the lights at the runway have extra brilliance and therefore demand more power.
“As for Nnamdi Azikiwe International airport, the medium term strategy, the basic objective is the renewal of basic power and infrastructure to cope with the present demand and take care of future demands.”
Dati acknowledged the urgent work done after the unearthing of the underground cables that provide light to the runway at that airport and said that electricity supply there has become efficient.
“The power project at the Abuja airport includes the procurement and installation of new cat 11 airfield lighting system, procurement and installation of new and upgraded diesel generating sets, as well as the rehabilitation of the main power house to accommodate the new equipment,” he said.
At the Port Harcourt International Airport, the on-going power project that is designed to improve the power supply because over the years the airport did not have dedicated power supply from PHCN and so was always under supplied, which gave rise to low voltage that was not powering the runway lights and the old existing generators were also too weak to do that or even provide electricity to the airport.
So the power project at the airport include the procurement and installation of three new caterpillar generators rated 1000KVA and three others rated 500KVA including indoor power transformers complete with all accessories.
“Similar power improvement projects are on-going at Maiduguri, Owerri, Calabar, Enugu except in Ilorin and Ibadan where they have already been concluded,” Dati said.
He noted that these projects were all geared towards the replacement of obsolete 11KV gas control and distribution panels, replacement of obsolete cables, distribution panels and feed pillars, upgrade 11KV underground cable and the provision at least one 500KVA caterpillar generation at each of these airports
“New generating sets, power control and distribution systems, underground cables, new plant rooms, transformers, automated switch gear systems have all been provided for all the airports as part of the Medium Term Sector Strategy (MTSS) of the Authority.
“All the projects started in 2009 have been virtually completed and will ensure that our airports operate in accordance with ICAO standards and recommended practices,” the General Manager added.
But it has not been all rosy stories. THISDAY learnt that in some of the airports some of the power projects which were started about four years ago have not been completed because the contractors, most of who had collected substantial amount of money for the contract, abandoned them halfway.
Because attention is paid to the airports in Lagos and Abuja, care is usually taken by the contractor and FAAN management to ensure that work is effectively carried out at these two airports.
When Abuja airport runway lighting had issues prompt effort was taken to rehabilitate it and today it is in almost perfect condition.
But at the airports in Port Harcourt, Calabar, Yola, Kaduna, Enugu and others not as much attention is paid to them. The power projects at the Port Harcourt airport, for example, are far from being completed. An inside source at that airport told THISDAY that the problem is not that of FAAN, which has deployed all the necessary resources and logistics to ensure that the project is completed.
“The problem is the contractor. After collecting money some of them disappear. The power projects in all the airports outside the ones in Lagos and Abuja have not been completed but a high degree of work has been done in some of them. In Port Harcourt they have delivered the generators but they need to come back to site and install the generators and connect them so that they will be completed and commissioned.”
The source also urged that all the contractors handling power projects at the other airports should go back to work and finish the project as quickly as possible.
“You know, the attention is always Abuja and Lagos but attention is not paid to these airports in Port Harcourt and others. This is not good and this is why in spite of the potential some of these airports have, they have not been maximised,” the source added.