For the most parts of the week, there has been a series of drama in the aviation sector of Nigeria and Ghana. The most obvious result of the situation is that to-Lagos flights are taking a detour to Accra.
Yesterday, a reasonable portion of domestic flights were either delayed or cancelled, (no) thanks to the harmattan-induced hazy atmosphere that prevented most flights from taking off.
This is the same reason flights set for landing at the Murtala Mohammed Airport in Nigeria’s commercial capital diverted to Ghana.
Even foreign carriers were not left out of the problem, as they were forced to inconvenience passengers as well as themselves by embarking on longer journeys.
However, why did these headed-for-Lagos flights not land in the Abuja airport instead? The answer uncovers the level of unpreparedness in Nigeria’s aviation for weather conditions such as this intense harmattan.
There was a suboptimal performance of instrument landing aids in the Lagos airport, which happens to be the country’s busiest.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said yesterday that the federal government had bought equipment that allows for landing in conditions of the lowest visibility.
However, according to him, the malfunctioning of some components delayed the installation.
One may ask why the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja is not playing the role of the rescue landing strip for the Lagos flights. The minister, though, stated that the decision to touch down in Ghana is purely from the airlines.
“In recognition of Abuja as an alternate airport, Qatar airlines has applied to divert its flights to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International airport, to which the Minister granted immediate approval. It is left to be seen why some others decided to divert to another country,” he said.
While expressing concern over the diversions, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), assured that the Instrument Landing Systems would soon be optimized.
It’s not the first time for such to occur. In late 2017, harmattan haze culminated in the closure of local flight operations for some days as horizontal visibility crept under the 800 meters bench. Passengers were refunded their fares and local operators rescheduled flights.