By Rasheed Sobowale
Harmattan haze which has been intense since Monday delayed and caused flights cancellation in West African countries notably Nigeria, the largest economy and most populated nation in the Africa continent.
The flight diversions was a blessing to the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) in Ghana. The airport considered one of the safest airports in Africa is equipped with “better instrument landing systems and other navigational aids, such as Doppler Very High Frequency Omnidirectional Radio Range, to help aircraft land in bad weather.”
According to Ghana’s online media, the aircraft diversions to Accra follows a consensus reached by aviation sector experts in West Africa that the KIA had better air navigation and instrument landing systems needed to guide aeroplanes down, even during intensified dusty dry winds.
– Frustrated Nigerian –
Vanguard received a message via Facebook from an aggrieved Nigerian; “Please, can you help us to ask FAAN when all the flights meant to land in Lagos but were diverted to Ghana since Tuesday will be given clearance to come into the country.
“Ghana international airport is littered with passengers’ aircrafts meant to land in MMA, Lagos. Five of such is presently on ground and it’s becoming rowdy and inconvenient now.
“FAAN needs to tell us what is happening. This is one of the reasons businesses are running away from Nigeria. Please, help us! It’s never a crime to be a Nigerian but this is an unfortunate incident which is avoidable by a serious nation.”
– Diverted Flights –
The Corporate Communications Manager of the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Eric Mireku Amaning, told a local news media, Daily Graphic that the flights diverted to Ghana include: British Airways (BA), Delta Airlines, Emirates Airlines, Air France, Qatar Airways and RwandAir.
“They were diverted from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, both in Nigeria, between February 10 and 12, this year.”
– Best safety records –
Mr Amaning while boasting of Ghana’s aviation safety records said; “We have better instrument landing systems and other navigational aids, such as Doppler Very High Frequency Omnidirectional Radio Range, to help aircraft land in bad weather.
“In safety, Ghana prides itself as having one of the best safety records across the world, and it was no wonder that the International Civil Aviation Organisation scored the country 89.9 per cent in its Coordinated Validation Mission,” he said.
Nigeria was however scored 96.4 per cent in improved security in civil aviation.
– Nigerian government reaction –
The Federal government of Nigeria said it has granted one of the foreign airlines permission to divert its flight to Abuja instead of going to the neighbouring countries to land Lagos Airport bound flights.
Vanguard earlier reported that James Odaudu, Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Aviation said: ” The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika has noted, with great concern, the experiences of air travellers to and from the Murtala Muhammed International airport Lagos regarding flight diversions and, in many cases, outright cancellations, which have been occasioned by highly inclement weather conditions”.
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“While these developments are greatly regretted, we wish to let the public know that the authorities at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos were 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.
“Unfortunately, there was a malfunctioning of certain components, which, coupled with the unforeseen weather conditions, made landing at the airport difficult”.
“In recognition of Abuja as an alternate airport, Qatar airlines have applied to divert its flights to the Nnamdi Azikiwe International airport, to which the Minister granted immediate approval. It is left to be seen why some others decided to divert to another country”.
– Ghana cashing out –
Mr Odaudu, Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Aviation noted that the bad weather condition has no impact on KIA and instead, has been benefiting from the situation.
“We are currently benefiting immensely from the situation, as the airlines pay landing and overflight fees for the diversion. Because of the situation, most of the passengers have not been able to travel back to their respective countries and that is another cash in for Ghana,” he said.
“Although there is currently a hazy atmosphere, the GMA has assured us that the weather is okay for both domestic and international airlines to operate and so we have not cancelled any flight; we are only monitoring the situation closely,” he added.