Expert seeks urgent repair of faulty radars in Nigeria

  Lagos- Nigeria (PANA) -- A Nigerian aviation expert has advocated the urgent repair of faulty radars at the nation's airports as part of efforts to stem the spate of air accidents in the country.
   Jerry Agbeyegbe, Secretary General of the non-governmental organisation Nigerian Aviation Safety Initiative (NASI), told PANA in Lagos Thursday the absence of functional radars at the airports, especially in Kano and Zaria both in the north, and Port Harcourt in the south-east, affects security and makes flying unsafe.
   Only two of the more than 20 airports in Nigeria are reported to have working radars.
   Agbeyegbe, an airline captain, was speaking a day after a Yugoslav-made LET 410 aircraft operated by the private Sky Executive Airlines crashed in Nigeria's south-eastern State of Akwa Ibom, killing all five people on board.
   The accident was the third air mishap recorded in the country in the past three weeks, and the second fatal crash after a BAC 1-11 plane operated by another private EAS Airlines crashed in the northern city of Kano, killing 148 people.
Another crash was averted at the same Kano Airport days later.
   The accidents have raised safety concerns in the country's aviation industry, especially the effectiveness of agencies which have oversight responsibilities on the sector, as well as the maintenance of aircraft being used for domestic operations and the provision of navigational and communication facilities at the airports.
   They have also prompted the Aviation Ministry to impose stringent measures on domestic airline operators, including the suspension of BAC 1-11 planes from the country's airspace and enforcement of an earlier ban on aircraft that are older than 22 years.
   Agbeyegbe expressed surprise that the radars, especially those in airports with high traffic, had been left unrepaired for a long time.
   "One is surprised that nothing has been done about them till today," he said, referring to the radar situation in the airports in general, and in Kano, Zaria and Port Harcourt in particular.
   He said the radar in Port Harcourt "needs to be fixed as soon as possible" because the situation posed serious danger considering the high volume of air traffic in the Niger Delta, hub of the country's oil operations.
   "A lot of traffic criss-crossing the Nigerian airspace from Central, Eastern and Southern Africa, pass through the Port Harcourt area to Lagos or Kano," the NASI official said.
   But Agbeyegbe said the problem with Nigeria's aviation industry goes beyond radar.
   "We make money out of aviation, but we are not putting it back.
Airlines pay taxes but do not get returns in terms of quality service from air traffic control," he charged.
   The Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) estimates that it would cost about 70 million dollars to achieve total radar coverage of the nation's airspace.

23 may 2002 17:13:00

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