Nigeria to spend $151 mln on improving airports

Issues and information related to travel to and from Nigeria.

Nigeria to spend $151 mln on improving airports

Postby Richard Akindele » Thu Apr 06, 2006 5:12 pm

LAGOS, April 6 (Reuters) - Nigeria has approved 19.5 billion naira ($151.3 million) in funding to improve safety at its airports, which was called into question by two major crashes late last year, the aviation minister said on Thursday.

Babalola Borishade told reporters that 6 billion naira would go towards upgrading the air traffic control tower at Lagos airport, the busiest in Africa's most populous country where 8 million passengers are transported by air each year.

The funding will also allow for the rehabilitation of the second runway at Lagos airport. At present there is only one functional runway for both international and domestic flights.

Borishade also said domestic airlines had been ordered to stop baggage handling within a week and make arrangements for two specialised agencies to take over baggage operations, in line with the practice of international airlines.

Nigeria has been trying to overhaul its aviation sector since two passenger jets crashed within seven weeks of each other last year, claiming a total of 223 lives.

On Oct. 22, an aircraft operated by private carrier Bellview crashed shortly after take-off from Lagos, killing all 117 people on board. It took authorities 15 hours to locate the site of the crash.

On Dec. 10, a plane flown by another private airline, Sosoliso, crashed at Port Harcourt airport, killing 106 people of whom half were schoolchildren. The plane burned on the runway because there were no functional fire engines at the airport.

There has been no official report on the causes of the crashes.

After the Sosoliso crash, President Olusegun Obasanjo ordered urgent reforms to improve safety and several airlines were temporarily grounded while their fleets were inspected.

Obasanjo said at the time that corners were being cut in every part of the aviation sector, which was tainted by corruption.

The number of passengers transported by air every year has doubled over the past six years, according to Borishade, but most of Nigeria's commercial fleet is at least 20 years old.
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