A common view that strikes the eyes of passengers in airports throughout Nigeria is the sight of abandoned dilapidated aircraft that belong to bankrupt airlines sharing the ground with on-duty planes.
The high rate of abandoned or disused aircraft in airports nationwide has continued to earn Nigeria the unenviable top spot in world ranking for such.
The over 100 disused aircraft that litter various airports across the country constitute environmental, security and safety hazards according to experts. The abandoned aircraft are those belonging belong to Aero, Chanchangi, Arik, Hak (that came with many aircraft but never flew), Dana, Savannah, Harco, Albarka, IRS, Nicon, ADC, and many others, including private jets belonging to famous clergies, banks and other wealthy Nigerians.
Someyearsagotherewere attempts to get the airplanes out of the airports across the country, but aircraft owners got a court order restraining the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) from removing them, while a few others were moved to a graveyard in Ejigbo.
The situation has left the Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Musa Nuhu frustrated as he lamented the difficulty in removing unserviceable aircraft from the apron of many of the country’s airports, saying they constitute security and safety challenges including ramp congestion.
The removal of a vital component from the flight deck of Arik Air by thieves penultimate week which Nuhu described as ‘vandalisation” rather than theft may have led to a fresh desire to remove the airplanes from critical areas of the country’s airport.
He hinted that whoever removed the parts had access, knew what they were after, and removed them professionally without damaging anything else. The parking of disused airplanes particularly at the Murtala Muhammed Airport 2 (MMA2) is coming at a time the terminal operator is grappling with space following the increase in airline operations from the terminal, forcing planes which are to pick passengers from the terminal to park elsewhere until other aircraft make a way out of the apron.
The FAAN seems to have been overwhelmed with the high number of disused aircraft in critical areas of many of the airports across the country and one that has continually posed security challenges to the aerodromes.
Regional Manager, South West of FAAN, Mrs. Victoria Shin-Aba recently disclosed that the agency had severally written to them to take them to lesser busy airports at no additional cost to them, adding that FAAN was even ready to waive parking fees for them just to ensure that they move their aircraft to a better place.
The agency is, however, constrained from removing disused aircraft from many of the nation’s airports following legal battles between the owners of the planes and lessors despite Nigeria being a signatory to the Cape Town Convention. New Telegraph learnt that many of the disused airplanes are kept on the apron following litigations from the operators following a clause in the convention some said could make the lessee press for charges.
Most of the time, the litigations stretch for years in court, leading to corrosion and economic damage to the airplanes. Despite the strict conditions of these agreements, Nigerian airlines run to the local courts to raise ex parte motions to stop lessors from taking back their aircraft.
This puts the NCAA in a precarious situation as it stands as surety for the pact. The NCAA Director- General admitted that there are difficulties of removing disused airplanes from the nation’s aerodromes, citing several attempts in the past that did not yield the desired result, attributing the frustration to so many court cases which restricted FAAN from removing them while underlining the security implication their presence cause to the area.
“In Lagos, Benin, Kano, Port Harcourt, even Abuja there are so many unserviceable aircraft parked where development and expansion could have taken place. From Hak Air, Fresh Air, NICON Airways, Space world aircraft to Chanchangi, Kabo, Okada all rotting away.
“The National Assembly made a pronouncement on unserviceable aircraft. We have made attempts to remove them, but unfortunately, a lot of them have court cases and there is a kind of restriction on FAAN. So, it is a difficult situation, but we are having a meeting sometime this week to discuss this and see what we can do.
“There are so many implications for these aircraft; it is congesting the ramp and to me, it has safety implications. It can have security implications and it denies the growth of the industry. Unused aircraft are parked and taking space where new and serviceable aircraft can take.
So, it’s a very grave concern. “We have discussed with FAAN even before the National Assembly spoke about it. Court cases can sometimes tie your hands because if you go and do something, the court will fine you for contempt of court,” he said regrettably.
Speaking on the Arik plane theft, Nuhu said: “All I can say, investigations are ongoing on the incident, but I won’t say it was a vandalisation.
What happened is that somebody who obviously knew where the aircraft was, somebody who obviously knew what he was doing, went to the E and E2 compartments, walked in there, and removed a component professionally without damaging anything.”
However, the NCAA DG denied allegations that the nation’s airports are not safe, stating: “How many aircraft have been vandalized in Nigeria in the past 10 years? Let’s not use a single issue to destroy our country.
This is one incident, which seems to have been done by a professional, maybe an insider.
“Have we had any cases of people going to vandalize an aircraft in the last 10 years? This is one case and we should not use it to destroy the reputation of our industry.”