Monday, September 5, 2011

Foreign airlines may suspend Abuja flights over insecurity

Foreign airlines coming into Nigeria through the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja are currently taking a holistic review of security in Nigeria’s capital with a view to halting flights to the area if security does not improve there.

The airlines, particularly those from Europe are worried over the spate of bombing that has shattered the peace of the hitherto serene Abuja, following the terror attack on United Nations (UN) buildings, that killed over 25 persons and injured many others recently.

The Guardian learnt that immediately after the incident occurred, the airlines considered relocating their Abuja operations to Lagos or even suspending flights in the interim until security was guaranteed in the nation’s capital.

The airlines equally expressed worry over the safety of their crews in Abuja hotels and tinkered with the idea of doing a quick turnaround back to Europe.

An official of one of the airlines who spoke with The Guardian on condition of anonymity,

explained that assurances from President Goodluck Jonathan and the Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) “made us to understand that the situation won’t deteriorate.”

Meanwhile, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria has again warned that all persons without genuine and legal mission to the nation’s 22 airports will henceforth be arrested and prosecuted.

Also, cameras are to be installed along the less than two-kilometre access road linking the international wing of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport to Ikeja, according to Managing Director, FAAN, Richard Aisuebeogun.

Meanwhile, stakeholders have raised concern over incursion of animals unto sensitive areas of Kaduna airport.

The situation further highlights the porosity of the nation’s airports, with many of them lacking perimeter fence and other safety devises to check runway incursion.

Raising the alarm over poor security arrangement at the airport, Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), the umbrella body for the airlines, said reports received from pilots and ground staff at the airports were worrying and called for urgent steps to avert danger.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Assistant Secretary General, AON, Mohammed Tukur, expressed concern over the intrusion of animals and unauthorised persons into sensitive areas of the airport, stressing that this signals danger for safety and security at the airports.

Tukur called on the Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Stella Oduah-Ogiewonyi to step in and ensure that perimeter fences were erected to ward off animals to avert air disaster, noting that, ”the situation at Kaduna Airport is a disaster in waiting if the authorities refuse to rise up to check the menace.”


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