Managing director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria ( FAAN), Captain Rabiu Hamisu Yadudu has said the agency had no choice but to take the action it did as it was not only a safety violation but a hindrance to recertification of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos.
He made this known stressing that when FAAN got certification the encroachment was one of the gaps identified for FAAN to close and the airport managers gave assurances of one year, however, four years running nothing happened, the violation remained and it was on the verge compromising its recertification, hence the action.
FAAN MD made this known at the weekend during an on the spot assessment visit of the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, stating that the reason it got this far was because people were not listening and kept on building despite warning and FAAN had to act now because of the recertification of the airport.
He said,” The international community knows it is a violation of safety. When we got the first one (certification), these factors were among the issues they raised and they gave us time to remedy it before they return for recertification. We told them to give us one year to address it, but it took us four years to achieve.
“So, it took so long because we were briefing the residents on development. This is something that has been happening over the past 30 years. For the time that it happened, we were not there, but I can’t answer that. In fact, we were forced to take this action, but there is the need for us to protect the airport for recertification.
FAAN however said, to forestall more encroachment on airport property it has procured some technology and is going to re-erect and protect the fencing around airport lands as well as monitor and carry out surveillance.
Yadudu said,”We are going to quickly re-erect and protect the fencing and lastly, we have procured a radar surveillance patrol system, which is automatic and zooms around 360 degrees with a radius of about 8km, which means it goes beyond the airport itself. It can spot anything beyond the airport. We spent about three years processing it and right now, it is on the high sea for installation at Lagos and Abuja airports. If it detects any image, even a rabbit it will focus on it.
“We also bought a mobile rationale video for that purpose. We have the automatic and the manual patrols. They are very effective for the people residing in the area. What went on is not for lack of patrol, but for clear willful disregard to the laws. It has always been protected.
According to him, FAAN will continue to do oversight, monitor and carry out surveillance of the place in conjunction with the other residents of the area, but it is a case of direct and willful disregard to the authority and rule of law. That was what created it. We also have regular patrols in those areas.
He said, “I don’t think it was demolition, but removal of illegal buildings by FAAN. There is a purpose and direction for removing the illegal structures. The illegal owners may have lost money, but we saved lives.
The leader of the delegation and Chairman, Sub-Committee on Ajao Estate Demolition, Hon. Ifeanyi Chudy Momah, while responding said,” We came on the spot assessment after the session that we had with the management team of FAAN. The committee will make their position known officially to the public in due course. The committee will address the media on some of the lingering issues.