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Lagos Airport

24.05.2024 Featured At Lagos International Airport, Flights Can’t Use Runway — Because Lighting System Was Stolen

Published 24th May, 2024

By Joseph Adeiye

Aircraft from international flights have been unable to land on the 18R/36L runway at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, for several months because the lighting system was stolen.

There were reports in February that the 18R/36L runway, the designated international runway, reopened after 11 months of maintenance and unclear circumstances.

FIJ can, however, report that the lighting system on the 18R/36L runway has been missing and flights have been unable to land there, especially at night.

The 18R/36L designated international runway
The 18R/36L designated international runway
Screenshot from metar-taf.com

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“One of the runways is for regional and international flights, while the other is meant for domestic flights. Right now, all of the flights are using the domestic runway. The international airlines are still using the international terminal,” Max Sule (not real name), a worker at MMIA, told FIJ on Monday.

“One of the implications of this is that international flights have to taxi from the domestic runway to the international terminal to park and disembark passengers, then taxi back to the domestic runway. This has been the case since March 2023.

“The runway was having some cracks and it was due for maintenance. That was why the 8-week maintenance notice came. It was later extended by 90 days. But it has not been operational. When the new leadership came, there was a circular that the runway would start operations in November or thereabouts. Between November and now, nothing has happened.

“I don’t know why exactly, but there were rumours of lighting theft from the international runway sometime last year. That was what we were told, but I cannot verify that.”

Sule also claimed that the international airlines might have added to flight costs due to the aviation fuel aircraft burn taxiing to and from the runway.

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Another MMIA staff member who asked not to be named echoed Sule’s report of lighting theft on the 18R/36R runway.

He claimed the authorities wanted the runway lighting theft out of the spotlight.

“That international runway has not been used by international flights for some months because the lighting system was stolen. I can’t say how many months now, but it’s been a long time – about a year or so. The lighting system that was fully functional before the runway was shut down for maintenance last year is no longer in place, and the runway cannot welcome night flights,” the anonymous airport staff told FIJ on Friday.

“When we heard that the lights were stolen, airport security interrogated airport staff. They were asking workers questions and checking our bank accounts, but that did not bring out the thieves. I want to know how people would dare go on the runway and steal lighting equipment with security personnel on payroll monitoring those restricted areas in the airport. The lights stayed on for a very long time, and it would be easy to know if they were missing during maintenance. It felt like airport staff were complicit in the theft.

“They (the airport authorities) are silent about everything on that international runway. Nobody would ask questions about that lighting system, and they would wait for more money to come for the same lighting system.

“As we speak, the international flights are using an alternate runway instead of the international runway.”

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On July 21, 2023, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) shared a press release on its social media pages about thieves caught just past midnight at MMIA.

In that press release, FAAN suggested that the thieves might be connected to the theft of runway lighting.

“At about 01:35hrs on July 21, 2023, the guards on duty at the Nigeria Airforce HQ NADC gate halted three cable thieves along the airport road by NADC perimeter fence, who were sighted digging the FAAN underground armored cable with the aid of a digger, shovel and cutlass,” the statement read in part.

“The Authority believes that this incident could be a relevant clue to unravelling the theft of the Runway Lighting at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja.”

Rehabilitation and equipment installation cost billions of naira at airports.

The federal government earmarked N23 billion for rehabilitation and repairs of airport or aerodromes and air navigational equipment in the 2024 budget.

Agwagah Ikechukwu, who was with FAAN’s Freedom of Information Unit, could not respond to FIJ’s questions on Friday.

Ikechukwu redirected this reporter to the airport in Lagos or FAAN’s public affairs office.

“I wouldn’t know, but if you are in Lagos, you can check with Murtala Muhammed Airport. The information [you need] is not within my purview,” Ikechukwu said on Friday.

Obiageli Orah, Director of Public Affairs and Consumer Protection at FAAN, failed to answer phone calls.

Orah had not responded to an email and text message FIJ sent to her at press time.

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Published 24th May, 2024

By Joseph Adeiye

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