Several Nigeria bound flights were diverted to nearby Ghana due to weather conditions and poor instrument landing systems (ILS) at Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos, newswire PRNigeria, reported on Wednesday.
PRNigeria said some of the foreign flights diverted to Ghana included British Airways (BA) from London, Delta Airlines from the United States, and Emirates Airline from Dubai.
The Federal Airports Authorities of Nigeria said it was “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”. It was not clear why they waited many years to replace them or for the Harmattan haze to hit before the process of replacing them began.
Newswire, PRNigeria, quoted one of the passengers aboard the BA aircraft, Mr. Olayiwola Zaid, as saying that the absence of modern lighting equipment to clear the aircraft for landing and poor weather conditions were to blame. The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency were yet to comment.
Mr. Zaid said while some airlines touched down at Lagos airport successfully, their Boeing 747-400 aircraft from London could not land at MMIA because of the size of the aircraft and absence of good lighting equipment.
Zaid, a UK-based business intelligence analyst said passengers onboard the BA075 flight were calm amid the frightening incident.
He said they all maintained order and refused to quarrel or challenge the aircraft’s crew when their flight was diverted to Accra.
But another passenger. Dr. Tayo Olusola, attributed their flight diversion to bad weather.
He said: “It is not only British Airways that is affected but the Delta Airline, as well as Emirate Airline, were also diverted to Ghana. In our own case, we departed London Heathrow Airport at about 9:50am (UK time) and expected to land at Lagos Airport by 5:25pm (local time) when we were diverted.”
He, however, expressed surprise as to why an international airport like MMIA will lack necessary navigation facilities and clearance equipment for aircraft.
Olusola, a scientist, said: “It was not only our British Airways plane that was diverted but included Delta and Emirate airlines. So, it’s not about the issue of the size of the plane. But it has to do with the ‘dysfunctional’ state of some modern landing facilities and equipment at the Lagos Airport.
“It beats my imagination that a Nigerian airport cannot clear aircraft to land just because of harmattan, whereas countries with hazardous weather conditions like snow still clear aircraft for landing at their airports. This shows how corruption has eaten deep into various sectors of our economy, and also stunted even the development of critical facilities at our ‘acclaimed’ international airports.”
Speaking to PRNigeria on the incident, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, the spokesperson for the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), said the flights were not diverted to Ghana over lack of basic navigation and landing equipment at MMIA, but due to poor weather condition in Lagos after the aircrafts had arrived the country.
The BA075 crew and that of other airlines while regretting the ugly incident, promised to convey the passengers safely to Nigeria on Wednesday (today).
Delta Airlines cancelled its flight to Nigeria altogether on Wednesday, with a top official citing extra costs caused by people who did not do their job well.
According to a report in Nigeria, the official lamented that the cost of extra landing outside their original destination, parking costs, accommodation of their passengers in hotels are all extra costs that were not charged for and unforeseen, adding that many passengers missed their connecting flights as a result of the problem which led to stranding of passengers,” the report added.
The Duty Manager of Delta Air announced the cancellation of its Atlanta-Lagos flight ‘due to bad weather condition in Lagos and now estimated to arrive Lagos at 14.00hrs of February 13, 2020 if the weather improves’.