THE Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has reportedly suspended some officials over stolen runway lighting system at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, and has commenced an investigation into the matter.
The director of public affairs and consumer protection (FAAN), Yakubu Funtua, has confirmed the incident, according to reports.
The airfield lighting system at the domestic runway 18R/36L of the airport was said to have been stolen by some yet-to-be-identified workers.
FAAN had, on March 13, announced a shutdown of the runway for eight weeks to allow maintenance work, and channelled all flight operations to taxiway B-18L until the maintenance was completed, The ICIR reported.
The runway lighting system makes it safe for aircraft to take off and land at the domestic airport.
According to a Punch report, some heads of relevant departments at FAAN had been suspended over the missing lighting equipment on the directive of the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Aviation, Emmanuel Meribole.
Funtua said the FAAN had launched an investigation and assured that the agency would do all within its powers to get to the root of the matter.
He said because of the many agencies operating at the airport, including those supposed to be taking care of security, it would be unfair to accuse the FAAN staff of the occurrence.
“We can’t say exactly who did it, but we are doing all that we can to recover what is lost. We are going to recover it because we are going to find out those people who did it and then block all those loopholes,” he was quoted to have said.
Efforts to speak with the FAAN authority to clarify some issues were unsuccessful. Its spokesperson, Faithful Hope-Ivbaze, did not answer calls or respond to the text message sent to her phone line.
An expert who spoke unanimously with The ICIR said FAAN needed to explain what happened.
He asked, “Was it that the lighting system had been installed and was stolen, or had not been installed and was stolen?”
He said the perpetrators of the act might have taken advantage of the closure of the runway, which lasted for about three months, to beat FAAN’s security apparatus.
There had been incidents of theft at the Lagos airport. For instance, in December 2021, Arik Air complained to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) about an attempted robbery of its taxiing aircraft by unknown men that encroached on the runway.
The ICIR reports that for nearly 16 years, the second runway of the MMA Lagos operated without airfield lighting until November 2022 when FAAN reopened the runway for flight services after the successful installation of the CAT III Airfield ground lighting system.
An aviation consultant, Fatai Afolabi, told The ICIR that FAAN needed to look inward to address the many security challenges at the airport as there are personnel and touts with no business operating at the airport.
Afolabi, a former financial secretary of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), said, “What has happened is a reflection of the activities that go on in the airport. When you look at our airport, you will see a lot of security agencies, but their concern is to get some things from travellers. Security is not their concern.”
Believing the theft must have been perpetrated by airport staff, he queried how possible it was for non-staff to walk onto the runway, an area not accessible to them, and steal the lighting system.