- Reps: Diverting of Nigerian flight to Ghana, Benin, Niger very embarrassing
Some Nigerians who are stranded in Accra, Ghana after their flights were diverted Ghana following poor weather conditions and complications from new equipment installation, returned by road, one of the passengers has said.
Although the condition is said to have improved and airlines are resuming regular flight schedule, many Nigerians are said to have been unable to find their way back to the country.
Foreign airlines including British Airways and Delta Airlines had diverted their flights to Ghana and Senegal over poor visibility in Lagos.
A passenger onboard one of British Airways diverted flights, Michael Williams, said about 300 Nigerians were abandoned in Accra.
Williams said the passengers were asked to find their way to Lagos.
According to him, the flight which was supposed to land in Lagos last week Tuesday was diverted to Accra and the passengers spent another two days before returning to Lagos on Friday night, on their own.
He said some of the affected passengers had to return to Nigeria by road as the airline offered them an option of returning to London.
Williams said, “We were supposed to land in Lagos last Tuesday, but unfortunately, there was a weather issue in Lagos and the flight diverted to Accra, Ghana.
“We went to Accra and they promised that they would try the next day, Wednesday. We were put in a hotel and we went back the next day, but they said the situation didn’t improve.
“By Thursday afternoon, we got communication from British Airways that we should go to the airport to reclaim our luggage because their aircraft had to return to London.”
He however stated that when the passengers got to the airport, they were told that the flight had been cancelled and they should find their way to Lagos.
He said many passengers decided to return to Lagos by road.
British Airways did not comment on the issue, but according to a memo sent to passengers and obtained by our correspondent, the airline attributed the flight diversion to adverse weather at the MMIA.
The memo read in part, “Due to adverse weather, we were unable to safely land into Lagos Airport. We regret to inform you that due to the operational constraints, we have had to cancel this flight.
“We recommend that you make your own travel arrangements to Lagos as we are unable to operate safely in the coming days.
“If you wish to travel from Accra – London Heathrow, there are a limited availability of seats to book on. Please speak with our colleagues at the airport to adjust your ticket, subject to availability.”
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, had last week apologized to passengers over the diverted flights, stating that the government was working on the Instrument Landing System to allow for aircraft landing at the lowest visibility.
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority while appealing to both domestic and international passengers had also stated that weather related diversions, cancellations and delays were precautionary safety measures in aviation and were inevitable.
According to aviation expert and former Director of Operations of the defunct Nigeria Airways, Capt. Dele Ore, foreign airlines have schedules for winter and summer and should have same for harmattan in countries such as Nigeria where they operate into.
Reps: Diverting of Nigerian flight to Ghana, Benin, Niger very embarrassing
Meanwhile; The House of Representatives has described the inability of planes to land at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Lagos, leading to flights diversion to neighboring countries as embarrassing.
The lawmakers particularly asked all relevant regulatory agencies and other stakeholders in the aviation sector to ensure that all the acquired landing equipment, including Category III Instrument Landing System and other supportive equipment, were installed in the designated airports.
The House, at the plenary on Tuesday, resolved that both the airlines and the Federal Government, through the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, should be responsible for the compensation of passengers inconvenienced by the development.
In addition, the lawmakers mandated the House Committee on Aviation to investigate the matter and identify who should be held responsible for the plight of stranded passengers, whose flights were diverted to neighboring countries.
These resolutions were passed following the unanimous adoption of a motion moved by Mr Olawale Raji, titled ‘Urgent Need to Complete the Installation and Upgrade of Landing Equipment in the Nation’s Airports to Enhance Safety in Our Airspace.’
Moving the motion, Raji said it was an “embarrassing situation in the aviation industry, with the diversion of international flights coming into the country to Accra and Lome due to poor landing equipment.”
The lawmaker stated that there was a need to act immediately to correct “this anomaly which is causing loss of revenue and giving the country a bad image.”
According to him, the country is suffering economic losses as a result of that.
Raji said, “The House notes that over the years, there has been several clamours from stakeholders in the aviation sector and other well-meaning Nigerians on the need for the Federal Government to adequately equip and upgrade the nation’s airports with modern landing equipment from the current Category I and II in use in Nigeria to Category III ILS.
“The House also notes that these agitations were predicated on the high number of delayed and cancelled flights during the harmattan season and inclement weather conditions, which make landing and take-off of aircraft very difficult or near impossible.
“On account of poor visibility, some foreign airlines are presently diverting their international flights to Accra in Ghana and Ndjamena in Chad and some other neighbouring countries with its attendant negative consequences.
“The House is aware that the Federal Government has made budgetary provision for the procurement and installation of modern landing equipment in seven airports in Nigeria, amounting to about N7.8bn in Phase 1, comprising Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt, Katsina, Maiduguri and Sokoto airports.”
The sponsor recalled that the Cat III ILS had recently been installed by NAMA at the MMIA Lagos to enable pilots ‘carry out approach to landing’ in zero visibility and see the runway no matter the weather conditions.
He said recent reports in the media, however, also indicated that the instrument was not functioning at its optimal capacity due to the non-availability of other supportive equipment like the runway and approach lights yet to be installed and upgraded by the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria.
Seconding the motion, House of Rep member representing Saki West/Saki East, Mr Olajide Olatubosun, stated that while the ILS upgrade was good, the planning especially the timing was bad. He noted that Nigeria had lost £5m as revenue due to the diversions.