Intrigue, losses as MMA2’s regional service stalls

Murtala Muhammed International Airport

Murtala Muhammed International Airport

Regional flight service scheduled to take off at the Murtala Mohammed Airport Two (MMA2) since January this year has remained in the cooler.

The non-take off of this service which stakeholder in the industry believe could be a gold-mine that could substantially shore up the income of the relevant government agencies involved, which are statutory contributors to the national budget, is coming at time when the country is facing a dwindling economic fortune.

The agreement for the take off the regional operation was signed last May between the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL).

Under the agreement domestic airlines like Dana Air, Med-view and Aero Contractor operating regional flights in the continent are to move their operations to MMA2 to decongest the international wing of the airport whose facilities are believed to be gradually becoming inadequate to cope with the increase in the volume of air traffic arising from the operations of these airlines.

The question that has been agitating the minds of stakeholders, especially some airlines that have declared their intentions to commence international operations at the terminal, is the reason behind the prolonged delay in the commencement of this service.

The spokes-person for Dana Air, Kingsley Ezenwa confirmed the readiness of the airline and others in its category to commence full operations from MMA2, stressing that they are only waiting for the green light from BASL and urged that parties to the agreement quickly resolve whatever grey area that is hindering the commencement of operations at this wing.

The situation becomes even more intriguing when the Chief Executive Officer of BASL, Christophe Penninck alleged that some stakeholders in the aviation industry were actively frustrating its efforts to start international operations at its terminal. The company claimed it had not only signed a valid agreement with the FAAN and that it had also complied with all the conditions set by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

NCAA through the General Manger Public Affairs, Sam Adurogboye confirmed to The Guardian in an interview that it has sent a team to investigate how far BASL has met conditions to operate regional flights but that the report is still being awaited. It is however curious and raises suspicion that the report of investigation started since June last year is not yet out, tending to to confirm Penninck’s claim that some stakeholders are frustrating the take off of the service.

Adurogboye also said the facility for the regional operation must have got the nod of all the security agencies expected to carry out security checks there before the NCAA could give its approval.

Penninck, while speaking during the company’s stakeholders’ parley, in Lagos, recently noted: “I know for a fact that Aero, Dana and Med-View airlines operate international flights to Accra. It will make operational sense to combine that arrangement with their respective domestic operations. There is a competitive advantage in operating from the same terminal where they have their local flights operations.”

Sources from the firm said various teams of inspectors from NCAA and other statutory agencies the DSS, the NDLEA, Customs and the Port Health Service had audited BASL’s preparedness for the international operations, certified the terminal fit to commence operations and have gone ahead to deploy their personnel.

This paper’s investigations have again confirmed that not only have some of these security agencies inspected and certified the fitness of the facility for the operation, some of them like the Immigration and Customs have also deployed personnel there in readiness for the take off. This was disclosed to The Guardian yesterday by the spoke-persons of the Airport Command of the Immigration Ekpedeme King and Customs Thelma Williams, in separate interviews.

The source said BASL had written several letters to NCAA requesting clarification on the status of its application to commence regional operations at MMA2, but it is yet to receive any clear cut response from the agency.

Investigation by The Guardian however revealed that the delay might be due to some issues raised by FAAN about the viability of MMA2 to carry out regional operations.

FAAN, had allegedly claimed in a letter to the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, it does not have the personnel to deploy to MMA2 for the regional flights. It also claimed its AVSEC and ARFFS staff are overstretched due to retired and retiring personnel.

But the spokesman for BASL, Remi Ladigbolu queried the propriety of FAAN’s latest position, describing it as an afterthought.
He described the excuse of inadequate personnel given by FAAN as “an open admission of incompetence which should lead to serious disciplinary measures”, noting that “a statutory body that executes an agreement and then turns round to state that it has no personnel to carry out its contractual and statutory obligations under the agreement cannot be regarded as acting in the public interest. This reason, as proffered by FAAN, is totally unacceptable”.

FAAN, it was learned, also expressed worry about recent incidents of wing tips brushes at the BASL apron, which it claimed was mostly due to gross inadequate space due to the size of the apron.

But, the official the statement by FAAN as unfair, while noting: “MMA2 has had the best safety record in the whole aviation industry in Nigeria. We don’t have any issue with parking space for aircrafts. That is a false allegation.”

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