Nigerian aviation crossroads may be hit by a scandal soon to break out if passengers bound for South Africa carry out their threat to shut down the Abuja Airport after a South African Airways plane was damaged five days ago by the runway of the Nnamdi Azikwe Airport, Abuja.
The plane, which could not be immediately fixed due to the extent of damage, left the passengers seething with anger against the management of Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), which refused to fix or close down the runway adjudged not good enough to facilitate smooth operations of big aircraft.
Aviation sources told TheCable that this was not the first time South African Airways’ aircraft, including other foreign airlines, would be damaged at the same runway.
Several letters to the aviation ministry and the FAAN to draw their attention to the development were ignored.
So far, apart from the huge cost incurred by the airline to keep its stranded passengers at Abuja Sheraton in the past four days, the airline has also had to contend with huge cost of repairing the planes.
As if Nigerian Aviation is primed for collapse, the aviation ministry is not forthcoming on the forex issues affecting airlines and the deepening infrastructure lockdown at the Abuja airport and at the Muritala Mohammed Airport, Lagos, where finger-F of the airport has been totally shutdown and the airport in darkness.
Speaking at an aviation round-table meeting in Lagos on Monday, Bankole Bernard, president of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), had described the scenario as a “huge embarrassment”, and called on the president to sack the minister and heads of aviation agencies.
“It is a shame for the so called giant of Africa. From immigration to terrible runways, smelling toilets and blackouts, our airports are a sad face of this country,” he said.
Muneer Bankole, the new face of Nigerian spirit in airline business, urged the government to hands off management of airline facilities, advocating the privatisation of FAAN, NAMA and NCAA.
At a reception for NANTA leadership in his office on Thursday, he noted that if MRO must work in Nigeria, then government must “kiss goodbye to aviation management but can regulate”.