Chairman United Nigeria Airlines, High Chief Obiora Okonkwo made this known while lamenting the challenges lack of airport facilities cause the airlines and stressed that without AFL funds are lost with regards operating after sunset as Jet A1, which is another expensive component amounting 40% operational cost is spent taxiing and holding .
Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) announced in August 2020 that the Air Field Lighting (AFL) of 18L Murtala Muhammed Airports will come on stream by 2021 with standard lighting and in August 2021, the airports manager said it and the Ministry of Aviation have agreed in principle for the Minister to resolve the contract issue delaying the 18L Runway light at the airport and once documents are complete it will procure and install the AFL in 6 months, that is where government is at on that.
However, this has not brought happiness to airport operators who feel the daylight operations alone restricts them and puts pressure on their operations as there isn’t enough time to properly schedule their operations and even when they do, they are at the mercy of the international Runway 18R mostly busy after sunset.
The United Nigeria Chairman said,”80-90% of Nigerian airports are on sunset operations and one asks why? This sunset regime puts a lot of pressure on our operations and our schedule because you have to schedule to make sure you start your business and end before sunset. You might not believe that all the local airports here in Lagos are on sunset operations, it has to be looked into.”
“There must be proper extension, these airports are there and if you don’t have the facilities to operate up to a certain time like 11pm-12pm and it costs the operators huge sums of money to operate beyond 6;30pm, there is no need for that and this leads to a lot of cancellation because if you have one or two hours left, you are already running out of time and if you dot get understanding for extension, you cancel your flights and your passengers start ravaging.”
“If you have 11pm-12am to operate to all the airports, passengers will get used to this and you will be at liberty to spread flight intervals and that will increase on-time performance and customer confidence,” he said.
The present challenge with the 18Left Runway light is something that predates the current management of FAAN and this administration as it has been an ongoing issue for almost a decade an half, Captain Rabiu Hamisu Yadudu, the FAAN boss said a solution was in sight as agreements have been reached in principle but the delay was due to the fact that there is an existing contract that has been protracted for years now and government cannot approve a new project when there is an existing one on the same facility.
According to Yadudu, it was not negligence or lack of attention because as a government agency, FAAN had to follow due process.
He said that the AFL was an important project and more critical than even the Taxiway Bravo that FAAN has completed 95% but that for the existing contract, it would have been done first before Taxiway Bravo.
He said,” …18Left has been delayed because of a current contract that has been for many years and finally, the honorable minister has graciously accepted to resolve that issue that has been protracted and he has agreed to grant us permission or approval to quickly procure a new lighting system.You know FAAN is a government agency; we cannot work and procure a new project when there is an existing one on the same facility. So many things you see that are delayed, are not delayed because of negligence or lack of attention it’s because you have to follow due process.
“It is however part of government regulations that you cannot procure the same thing twice until you resolve the first one. The ministry has resolved the first one and has taken over, freeing FAAN now with an approval to quickly resolve it because it is a critical requirement. So the key consideration for us here is that if not for the existing contract, we would have finished that before taxiway bravo.
“ If you compare, the lighting is more critical than taxiway bravo but now taxiway Bravo is 95% complete, we just came from there, you will not recognize it from the taxiway that was overridden with grass and a lot of shrubs, and this is brand new. So it’s a clear indication that AFL would have been done if not for the existing contract,” he said.
Recall, in 2008 the 2.7 km runway ’18 Left’ domestic wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, was rehabilitated for use however without any air field lighting leading to only daylight operations into the nation’s busiest airport and causing untold hardship on airlines for 14 years running as the situation compelled domestic aircraft at MMA to burn extra fuel to taxi down to their various terminals before disembarking their passengers at the Lagos airport.