Friday, July 25, 2008

Blind Flights Again

IS it possible that the Federal Government did not hear about the power outage at the Murtala Muhammed Airport , Lagos that knocked off the radars and reduced air traffic control to guesswork? If government heard, it did not consider the matter of significant importance hence its silence.
Right in the midst of the Senate’s probes of the management of the aviation sector in the past eight years and a court trial of some of those involved, planes were landing in Lagos without the most elementary navigational aids last week.

There was no alarm. Nigerian pilots are used to blind flights. There were no crashes too. Is this the attitude of the government that will lead Nigeria to be one of the top 20 economies in the next 12 years? This extent of disinterestedness simply boggles the mind.

Nigeria daily acts as if it has a covenant with primitiveness. Apparently, it is nothing to be ashamed of, as we trumpet our readiness to be a world leader in 2020. It is stultifying.

Less ambitious countries are doing better. How can a country’s prime airport run for hours without electricity, without radars? There are no queries because the authorities know they are guilty of similar unseriousness that endangers the lives of millions of Nigerians on land, sea, air and at home.

This incident would pass like the ones before it without any remedy. Had there been an accident, the government would gleefully set up an enquiry, throw words about on how unacceptable the situation was and absentmindedly promise to punish those responsible for the disgrace.

Nigerians are sick of these pretences. Governments that care for their people do their best to protect them. They would not be carefree over issues like air safety, since they realise the importance of air travel to the economy. They would be embarrassed to witness the deaths of their citizens, whose only offence would be that they travelled by air.

The unimportance of the security of lives has long been stated. Repairs on the runways of the airports in Lagos, Nigeria ’s busiest gateway, have not been finished after four years.

From the air, rested equipment testifies to an abandoned contract. In past five years, the Federal Government refused to fund the repairs and resorted to cosmetic measures to assure the world the runways were working.

At the height of the embarrassment, uncertainty pervaded scheduled flights to Lagos . Three years ago, management guru, Tom Peters, cancelled lectures billed for Lagos and Port Harcourt because nobody was sure if his plane could land.

What was the government’s response? It immediately amassed some diplomats on the tarmac of the Lagos airport to prove the runways were in order. The same runways are still in limbo. Today, one runway serves the local and international airports, resulting in normal delays of over 30 minutes for domestic flights, some of which last less than an hour. Who cares?

Perhaps air safety needs to be among government’s seven-point agenda to get attention.