For several years the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has been under pressure to evacuate abandoned/unserviceable aircraft from the airport environment.
This has resulted in the issuance of several threats and ultimatums notices to owners of these aircraft to remove them or face the consequence of their being forcefully removed by the airport authority.
Unfortunately, nothing has come out of these threats and the abandoned aircraft continue to pose security risk at the airports. It is either the owners of these aircraft are not actually interested in what happens to these aircraft, or they have termed FAAN as a toothless bulldog that could only growl and not bite.
However, this time around, FAAN says there is no going back on its threats and has given the owners of abandoned aircraft one week to remove them after which the aircraft would be dismantled and removed from the airport environment.
Taking journalists on a tour of the airport to see some of these aircraft at the Lagos Airport, FAAN's Director of Airport Operations, Captain Henry Omoegwu, said they constituted safety risks to passengers, aircraft and airport users, especially at this time when civil aviation was undergoing severe security challenges globally.
Some of these aircraft are packed close to the runway with some surrounded by weeds, but Omoegwu insisted that FAAN would execute its threat and would start the evacuation of the aircraft. He said after that, the contractor handling the aircraft evacuation project would move on to Abuja airport and later to other airports across the country.
He also revealed that the presence of these abandoned aircraft at airports in the country was stopping the authority from inviting the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to start the certification of the airports. Certification involves receiving an official document issued by the regulatory authority, supported by technical documentation demonstrating that the aerodrome for which it was issued meets specific air safety-related criteria.The certificate provides aircraft operators with documented proof that the facilities they operate or use are safe.
Omoegwu said: "We are in the process of certifying our airports. We will start the certification of the Lagos and Abuja airports during the first quarter of this year. Certifying our airports will bring in more investors into the aviation industry. We are building new airports and transforming the industry. We are running with the government's transformation agenda."
Though there are still outstanding court cases over the issue of the abandoned aircraft, FAAN's Director of Legal Services, Mark Jacob, maintained that most of them have been resolved, stressing that personal interest must not override the issue of safety.
However, as the one week ultimatum expires this week, will (FAAN) have the will to executive its threats?
Omoegwu insisted that the threat was real because for the first time, a committee was set up to that effect and there would be no going back. "Enough is enough," he warned.