Following the embarrassing and worrisome diversion of flights heading to the Murtala Mohammed Airport in Lagos, Nigeria, to the Kotoka International Airport, Accra, Ghana, over poor visibility caused by the hazy harmattan weather, the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has expressed concern, but wonders why foreign airlines prefer Accra to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Recall that media reports quoted the Director, Air Traffic Services at Kotoka, Edward Baah, as saying that a number of Lagos-bound flights have diverted to the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) since Wednesday, adding that more than five flights have all had to stop over in Accra.
“The size of aircraft that are diverting are wide-bodied that can carry about 400 passengers, so obviously they will create a lot of pressure at the immigration and the arrival hall,” he said.
He warned that there was a limit to how much flights Accra can accommodate, and that when the limit is reached, other diverted flights would have to seek refuge elsewhere.
However, in a statement from Sirika’s office, the Ministry of Aviation’ spokesman, Mr. James Odaudu, said though the developments were regretted, the authorities at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos were in the process of replacing the old Category 2 Instrument Landing Systems with the newly procured Category 3 system that allows for the lowest visibility landing.
He adds: “Unfortunately, there was a malfunctioning of certain components, which, coupled with the unforeseen weather conditions, made landing at the airport difficult.
“The procurement of the Category 3 Instrument landing System is in pursuance of the desire of the Federal Government to ensure the safety of air passengers by ensuring that airplanes can land with almost zero visibility.
“We wish to assure the public and the airlines, that efforts are on to return the system to full working condition and that normalcy of operations will be re-established in due course.
“On the diversion of incoming international flights to neighbouring countries, we wish to reiterate that the decisions are purely those of the airlines which we have no control over.
“However, it should be noted that those flights could, and should have been rerouted to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja which is shorter or equidistant from Lagos to the foreign airports to which some of the flights have been diverted.
“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.
“We wish to use this medium to assure the general public that the comfort, safety and security of the flying populace remains the central focus of this administration and that no effort would be spared in ensuring this.”