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Fire at Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos

Murtala Mohamed International Airport, Lagos (Airside view)

On 18 March, a fire incident occurred in parts of the fourth and fifth floors of the terminal building at Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.

Local sources reported that thick smoke was noticed on the two floors about mid-day, with flames bursting out shortly after. The fire prompted a stampede of passengers and airport staff fleeing the building. However, firemen from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and security agencies speedily arrived and put out the fire after a few minutes.

There were no casualties or injuries. While the incident briefly disrupted the activities of some airline staff in offices and check-in counters in the building, it did not lead to any flight cancellations.

The cause of the fire is not yet known, but the General Manager, Public Affairs of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Mr. Supo Atobatele, said it might have been caused by an electrical spark from the distribution box in the equipment room of the control tower.

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Fire at Kano Airport: One killed, four injured, flights delayed

Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano

On 14 March, a wild fire at the airside of the Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, engulfed a fire-fighting truck, killing one fire-fighter while four other persons, all staff of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) sustained serious injuries.

There has been no official statement on the cause of the inferno, but according to local reports, the fire was lit by unknown persons outside the airport‘s perimeter fence early in the day. It later became uncontrollable, as strong winds blew strands over the fence and ignited the bush near the airport.

The firemen had succeeded in putting out the blaze at one portion of the bush inside the airport and were trying to relocate their ladder when flames from the other side caught their truck. Two of them managed to flee but their colleague could not go far before he was burnt to death.

Planes that were coming in to land at the airport were delayed for close to 45 minutes, but were later able to land, after the fire was brought under control at about 3pm. The terminal building was not affected by the fire.

The incident raised concern among airport officials, particularly as it occurred just two days ahead of a visit to the state by President Goodluck Jonathan, scheduled for 16 March.

Aircraft with ACN Vice Presidential candidate, Fola Adeola, other party chieftains, crash-lands in Bauchi

The ACN-chattered aircraft at Bauchi Airstrip

On 8 March, an aircraft conveying the Vice Presidential candidate of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Mr. Fola Adeola, and other top party officials to Bauchi for a campaign rally, crash-landed at the city’s air strip.

Other party leaders aboard the HS-125 chartered aircraft with plate number 5BN-BNR, operated by Kings Air, included the National Chairman of the party, Boss Mustapha; and the former National Chairman of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Alhaji Yusuf Alli.

Explaining the cause of the accident, local sources said herds of goats and rams had roamed unto the runway as the aircraft was about to land, at about 12 noon. The pilot who had apparently reached a point of no return, had no choice but to crash-land the aircraft, causing it to suffer serious damage.

The incident caused another chartered aircraft conveying the party’s presidential candidate, Nuhu Ribadu, and other party leaders including Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, to hover in the air for about an hour, in order to allow the airstrip’s authorities clear the runway.

Director of Media and Publicity of the Nuhu Ribadu Campaign Organization, Ibrahim Modibbo, condemned the incident, saying his organization suspected sabotage, and called for thorough investigation. Modibbo asked rhetorically: “Is it possible for President Jonathan, who is also the presidential candidate of the PDP, to be involved in such a situation where the runway he is to land on will be filled by rams, which could have been controlled?”

Reacting to the incident, the Operations Manager of the Bauchi Airstrip, Danjuma Zaka, noted that this was not the first time such an incident would occur at the airstrip. He said the problem had persisted because of the failure of appropriate authorities to respond to safety concerns.

Zaka said: “If you visit the airport frequently, you will see Okada (commercial motor-cycle operators) and animals crossing the runway at will. So what can we do? I do not have the power to stop them from operating. It is only the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) that can sanction them”.

However, the Director-General of NCAA, Dr. Harold Demuren, attributed the incident to the absence of a perimeter fence at the airstrip, a responsibility of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN). He said the FAAN had probably not paid much attention to the facility, as it was an airstrip as against a full airport. He added that the incident could have been averted if there had been regular patrol of the airstrip by the authorities in charge, to keep unauthorized persons, animals and objects from the runway.

Demuren said in the light of the incident, the NCAA would now insist on regular patrol of airstrips in the country, pending when they would be provided perimeter fencing.

There are more than 60 airstrips across the country, but most of them are either privately-owned and managed or controlled by state governments, with little or no control by FAAN.

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