Lawmakers Move to Investigate Flight Diversions

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By Chinedu Eze

The House of Representatives Committee on Aviation has summoned aviation agencies over the recent diversion of Lagos bound foreign flights to neighbouring West African countries.

The Committee, which is headed by headed by Hon. Nnolim Nnaji of Nkanu East/West Constituency of Enugu State, is to investigate the development which it described as embarrassing to the image of the country within four weeks.

THISDAY gathered that the directive of the House was sequel to the adoption of the motion on the, “Urgent Need To Complete The Installation and Upgrade of Landing Equipment at the Nation’s Airport to Enhance Safety in Our Airspace,” brought by Hon. Wale Raji of the Epe Federal Constituency, Lagos State.

The agencies which include the Nigerian Airspace management Agency, (NAMA), responsible for the provision and maintenance of major navigational aids across the country, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, (FAAN) that ensures that the runways and the landing lights are up to standards at all times and, of course the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, (NCAA) which regulates all the agencies as well as every other service provider, including the airlines in the sector, are to appear before the committee on Tuesday, February 25, 2020.

The Committee recently summoned the agencies on the same issue when the British Airways diverted its Lagos bound flight to Accra, Ghana, to explain the reasons for such development which the agencies claimed had to do with the airline’s standard operating procedure, (SOP).

At the meeting with aviation agencies, the Managing Directors of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, (NAMA), Captain Fola AKinkotu and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigerian, (FAAN) Captain Rabiu Yadudu, had told the committee that the weather was not such bad that could warrant British Airways’ pilot to divert to Ghana, adding that several other foreign flights landed in Lagos at the same time the pilot chose to divert to Accra.

Akinkotu had further assured that NAMA was making efforts to calibrate the category three instrument landing system, (ILS) recently installed at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, (MMIA) to enable pilots land at near zero visibility.

The House, consequent upon the motion also mandated the committee to collaborate with the agencies and the various stakeholders in the aviation industry to ensure that all the acquired landing aids, category 3 ILS and other supportive equipment were installed at all the designated airports without further delay to forestall incidences of flight diversions from the nation’s airspace.

The committee was equally directed to determine whether the passengers affected by the diversion would under existing laws be entitled to compensation from either the aviation agencies or the airlines.

The Director, Consumer Protection Directorate (CPD), NCAA, Adamu Abdullahi, had in reaction to the inclement weather, said flight delays and cancellations are unavoidable in the global aviation industry, adding that the regulatory agency would ensure that the rights of the flying public were not trampled upon by airlines and other organisations in the sector.

Apart from safety and operational reasons, he said the NCAA has had cause to sanction erring airlines for not fulfilling their obligations to passengers, but said such sanctions were not for public domain.

“Delays and flight cancellations are inevitable in the aviation industry. They must happen. The regulations realise that. That is why we looked at it and we decided to ensure compensation to passengers. However, I will prefer to call it refreshments for the passengers, rather than compensation,” he said.

Abdullahi, said flight cancellations and delays due to bad weather is beyond the control of anyone so no one can be blamed for that, adding that there have been tremendous improvements in the provision of landing aids.