Nigeria’s Airspace is Safe, Secure, FG Assures

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Fola Akinkuotu
  • Abuja airport closed after plane overshot runway

Chinedu Eze

The federal government has assured local and international airlines as well as passengers that Nigeria’s airspace is safe and secure.

The Managing Director the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Captain Fola Akinkuotu gave the assurance yesterday, saying the safety in the Nigeria’s airspace has improved tremendously in the last three years following the modernisation and improvement of safety critical navigation aids in every part of the country.

This assurance is coming as passengers at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, were stranded yesterday morning due to the closure of the airport, after a private jet, Skybird’s Gulfstream with registration number, 5N-BOD, overshot the runway on Wednesday night.

Akinkuotu’s clarification followed concerns raised by aviation experts that the Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria (TRACON) did not have spare parts because of likely contractual issues with Thales of France, the manufacturers of the equipment.

But Akinkuotu who spoke in Lagos yesterday said the concerns over spare parts and maintenance issues concerning the radar were unfounded.

He also explained that the equipment was functioning optimally while NAMA has remained in close contact with Thales for seamless maintenance and delivery of spare parts.

“It is extremely important to reassure the nation, the travel public, our service users and the international community that TRACON is in top shape as I speak; it is safe in the medium and long terms. There is absolutely no threat from components failure. I have made this point before that our engineers are some of the best in the world. They are working closely with our partners at Thales. For the avoidance of doubt, we received formal communications from Thales a few weeks ago; we are in touch with them to resolve all outstanding issues.”

Akinkuotu explained that since Thales was the manufacturer of the TRACON equipment, spares could only be supplied by them, adding, “and we expect that they will continue to do their best to meet their obligations to us while the government is also not shirking in its responsibilities to them. Of course, this is a technical relationship, and if there are issues both parties move quickly to resolve them in the interest of the safety of our airspace.”

“I want to emphasise that TRACON is running safely and efficiently. There is no cause for alarm. Our airspace architecture is strong and we are on top of it,” he added.

The NAMA Boss told journalists that beyond TRACON, the agency has recently installed very high frequency (VHF) radios at 17 airports across the country in a bid to enhance communication between pilots and air traffic controllers (ATCs).

He listed some of the airports as Kaduna, Owerri, Enugu, Maiduguri, Ibadan, Katsina, Sokoto, Calabar, Akure and Gombe. Others are Asaba, Dutse, Uyo and Bauchi

Meanwhile, passengers at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja were stranded yesterday morning due to the closure of the airport.

The airport was closed temporarily on Wednesday night when a private jet, Skybird’s Gulfstream with registration number, 5N-BOD, overshot the runway.

Workers of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) examined the runway before re-opening it.

They however, cordoned off about 300 meters of the end of the runway where the incident happened.

The incident led to delay of flights from different parts of the country to the Federal Capital Territory, as passengers billed for early morning flights from Lagos to Abuja and from other parts of the country had to be delayed by about two hours.

The delay affected the first flights of Azman, Medview Airline and Air Peace to Abuja from Lagos, as their passengers had to wait until signal was received from FAAN that the airport had been re-opened.

FAAN in a statement signed by its General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu said the partial closure of Runway 22 at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, was “due to an incident involving a Gulfstream 4 aircraft being operated by Skybird that overshot the Runway while landing and consequently got stuck on the Runway End Safety Area (RESA).”

‘The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria has now reopened the runway to take arrivals and departures, subject to a reduced threshold of 3000 metres,” she added.

The agency assured airlines and passengers that the airport is safe for normal operations.

It is expected that officials of the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) would examine the aircraft before it would be removed from the site of the incident.