NIGERIA: Maintaining Aviation Infrastructure After Years Of Safe Airspace

Nigeria has relatively enjoyed a safe airspace in recent years with the last major air incident of commercial airline being on October 3, 2013, which killed 16 out of 20 persons on board an Associated Aviation Flight 361, which crashed on take-off from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.

Stakeholders believe that under Sirika as minister, the Buhari’s administration achieved so much in the area of infrastructure which ensure safety of Nigeria airspace but all these were eclipsed by Nigeria Air saga.

The reasons for such peaceful airspace can not be far fetched as the aviation industry in the last eight years have carried out major policies, which came inform of Aviation road map by the former minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika.

On the need for aviation roadmap, Sirika said: “The aviation industry in Nigeria prior to this administration tended to adopt a rather reactive approach rather than a proactive one especially in safety and infrastructural development. This Roadmap is an action plan of aviation in Nigeria that adopts a proactive, rather than a reactive approach to safety and infrastructural development.

“The primary objective of this roadmap is to provide a common framework of reference to all stakeholders in the sector including investors. It provides the direction which the aviation sector in Nigeria would be facing in the future and serves as a guide to all stakeholders and remove all ambiguities in and misconceptions of programs of this administration. It is the action plan for a proactive future of aviation in Nigeria.  The importance of this roadmap is to ensure that stakeholder’s collective efforts meet the common objectives of developing the aviation sector.”

The former minister also said, “In developing this roadmap, the focus are is strengthening and improvement of safety and security; Conduct a comprehensive security threat and vulnerability assessment; Develop a new security strategy in partnership with international security organizations among others.”


Speaking on the aviation roadmap, aviation stakeholder, Prof. Tilmann Gabriel said “The Buhari government had promised a new aviation industry which the future of Nigeria can rely on. It took hard work by the many involved, driven by a Minister of Aviation never tired of pushing this Buhari strategy in the last seven years.”

Also the director-general, of the Nigerian Mereological Agency (NiMet), Prof. Mansur Bako Matazu, said one of the components of the roadmap is the creation of an Aviation and Aerospace University which is already happening.

He also said the roadmap is providing incentives for professionals to stay, noting that “This will curtail the mass exodus of professionals for our great industry with all the huge potentials.”

According to the NiMet director-general, with the roadmap implementation, most of the agencies now have their specialized training centers including NiMet.

At the inception of Sirika as minister of State, Aviation in the first tenure of the Mohammedu Buhari’s administration, he spearheaded the rehabilitation of the runway of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

Recall that in late July 2016, South Africa Airways flight was damaged when it landed on the runway of the Abuja airport. The severe damage incurred prompted the airline to stop flying to the Federal Capital Territory. And that was not the first time the airline’s flight recorded damage on landing at the airport. Then, the runway was decrepit and precarious and many international and local aircraft were damaged on landing at the airport. It became an emergency situation. But the challenge was that the airport had one runway and if major rehabilitation would be done on the facility, the airport must be closed.

For the avoidance of a major incident while landing, Sirika summoned the political will to comprehensively repair the runway despite all criticism .



As one of the targets of the road map, the airspace safety was also a focus of the administration. Many infrastructural facilities that play critical role in safety of flight operation are not visible to the passengers and other airport users. Some of them are tucked in bush paths, airside of the airport premises and in the air. The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) plays crucial role in safe landing and take-off of flights; so is the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET).

The past administration installed the Controller-Pilot-Data-Link Communication (CPDLC), which allows pilots and air traffic controllers to communicate without voice, using data. The benefit is that when the network is saturated with many signals and voice communication is disrupted or incoherent, data come to play. It is more effective and relatively a modern method.

It also has to be noted that under the Buhari administration the federal government acquired two mobile towers, which were often used at the Abuja and Lagos airports, as the new terminals tend to interfere visually with the control tower. There were also the installation of Category 3 Instrument Landing System (ILS) in Abuja, Lagos, and the ones in Port Harcourt, Kano and Katsina have recently been completed. In fact, all the airports in Nigeria have at least Category 2 Instrument Landing System facilitated by the federal government.

The multilateration project for low flying aircraft in the Gulf of Guinea was over 90 per cent completed before the minister left office. The objective of the project is to capture flights below the radar level, like helicopters that provide shuttle service to oil and gas workers.

Also, the control station located in Port Harcourt has undergone successful test-run and would soon be put into use.

The federal government and Thales of France, which built the Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria (TRACON) signed agreement for the total re-installation of the project. This means that all the obsolete facilities in the project would be replaced with modern ones and TRACON would be rebirthed.

“TRACON will be reconditioned and even the things that were not there when it was newly installed would be put into it new; so, it will serve as new equipment.”

The Buhari’s administration also installed a simulator for air traffic controllers at the Lagos airport for on-the-job training. This is to stop the encumbrances encountered by controllers when they teach and at the same time control flight traffic with the same consul.


Terminals development

On new terminals in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kano, the accolades should go to the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration and to the former minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah who stated the building of the new terminals at the major airports.

However, Sirika ensured the facilities were completed.

At the the initial, the cost of each terminal project was $500 million, a loan from China Exim bank and $100 million counterpart funds from the Nigerian government, however, the projects cost more than three times of the initial budget because of the weakening of the naira, the fact that the terminals did not have important facilities built into them in the initial plan and even the terminals in Lagos and Abuja were located in places that made it difficult for the  air traffic control at the control towers to clearly see aircraft at the ramp. So many facilities have to be added.



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