By Adedayo Akinwale
The House of Representatives has ordered an investigation into the diversion of international flights to Accra, Ghana and Niger Republic.
The House ordered the investigation following the adoption of a motion on the need to complete the installation and upgrade of landing equipment at the nation’s airports to enhance safety in the country’s airspace, moved by Hon. Wale Raji.
In his lead debate, Raji said that over the years, there has been several clamours from stakeholders in the aviation sector and other well-meaning Nigerians on the need for the federal government to adequately equip and upgrade the nation’s airports with modern landing equipment from the current Category 1 and 2 in use in Nigeria to Category 3 Instrument Landing System (ILS).
He stressed that these agitations were predicated on the high number of delayed and cancelled flights during the harmattan season and inclement weather conditions which make landing and takeoff of aircraft very difficult or near impossible.
The lawmaker noted that on account of poor visibility, some foreign airlines are presently diverting their international flights to Accra, Ghana and Ndjamena, Chad and some other neighbouring countries with its attendant negative consequences.
Raji stated: “The federal government has made budgetary provision for the procurement and installation of modern landing equipment in seven airports in Nigeria amounting to about N7.8 billion in phase one comprising Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt, Katsina, Maiduguri and Sokoto airports.
“In fact, Category 3 Instrument Landing System (ILS) has recently been installed by Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) at the Muritala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) Lagos to enable pilots carry out approach to landing in zero visibility and see the runway no matter the weather conditions.”
The lawmaker said the recent reports in the media also indicated that the Category 3 ILS instrument is not functioning at its optimal capacity because of the non-availability of other supportive equipment like the runway and approach lights yet to be installed and upgraded by he Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN.
Raji expressed concern that the lack of cooperation amongst the aviation regulatory agencies on account of petty differences has negatively impacted on the efficient management of the country’s airports.
The lawmaker expressed worry that the constant diversion of airlines to alternate airports outside Nigeria has adversely affected the image of Nigerian aviation and undermine the economic benefit accruals to the country and the airlines.
Raji said that there was need to act immediately to correct the anomalies which is causing loss of revenue and portraying the country in bad light.
In his contribution, Hon. Olajide Olatunbosun lamented that the country has lost about £5 million as a result of the diversion of international flights to neighbouring countries.
Contributing, Hon. James Faleke said that it is so embarrassing that the country finds itself in such situation, lamenting that a situation why tax payers’ money is spent on the equipment, but it wasn’t working as a result of the negligence on the part of the agency.
The House therefore resolved that investigation should be extended to the number of aircraft diverted to other countries and those affected to be identified and compensated.
It also mandated the House Committee on Aviation to investigate the matter and also ensure that all the acquired landing equipment (Category 3 ILS and other supportive equipment) are installed in the designated airports without further delay to forestall further incidences of flight diversions in the country’s airspace.
The House also mandated the committee to find out those responsible for the diversion and the level of negligence, adding that both the agency and airline should be held responsible.