Unknown persons have allegedly carted away the recently reinstalled airfield lighting systems at the domestic runway 18/36L of Murtala Muhammad Airport.

The PUNCH gathered that the disappearance of the approach lighting systems had raised security concerns in Nigeria’s busiest airports.

According to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity, those who carted away the lighting systems took advantage of the closure of the runway for over three months.

The source alleged that some FAAN workers connived with outsiders to steal the airport lighting equipment.

“The criminal took advantage of the closure to commit the crime. I cannot give the actual worth of the theft, but almost all the lighting was removed. The permanent secretary came around to see for himself the huge damage done. A lot of FAAN officials have been suspended,” the source confirmed.

The PUNCH also gathered that some heads of relevant departments at FAAN have been suspended over the missing lighting equipment on the directives of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Aviation, Dr Emmanuel Meribole.

The source also disclosed that investigations had since commenced to unravel those responsible for the missing safety equipment.

According to the source, the regular incursion and stealing of safety components at the airports are carried out by a syndicate, consisting of some workers of the agencies, who have access to the restricted areas and accomplices from outside.

A top official with FAAN, who did not want his name in print, said the agency’s Managing Director, Mr Kabir Yusuf, was displeased with the development.

He stated that FAAN MD had also ordered the suspension of security personnel who were in charge of guarding critical airport facilities.

Reacting to the latest development, a former Military Commandant at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (retd.), said, “This is not new at MMA. I wish the FAAN management could go back to 1990 when similar things happened in the airport. I was convinced that it was an ‘insiders threats’. What did I do? I positioned soldiers on the runways and ensured that no FAAN maintenance staff went near the runways for anything without my approval; otherwise, it was shoot at first sight. It stopped completely. Runway lightings were being stolen and my conclusion then was that runway lightings can only be useful for runways and not roads or houses.

“Those stolen were being sold to FAAN by the same workers. That is why I am not in support of the unions carrying the picketing of their employers to the airport’s security controlled areas.”

The Director of Public Affairs and Consumer Protection, FAAN, Mr Yakubu Funtua, told The PUNCH stated that investigations had been launched and that the agency would do all within its powers to avoid a reoccurrence.

He said, “FAAN is doing all it can to get to the bottom of this. You are very aware that there are many agencies within the airport, including the different ones that are supposed to be taking care of security there. So, it would be unfair to put this (the theft) on our (members of) staff and I don’t think there is any FAAN (member of) staff that wants the agency to crash.

“Note that most of our revenue comes from Lagos. So, what kind of staff will ‘kill the goose that lays the egg?’ However, 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.”

For 15 years, the Lagos Airport domestic runway 18L was shut down to night operations due to the absence of airfield lighting.

Domestic airlines were forced to use runway 19 at the international airport, which consumes more aviation fuel because of the longer distance.

The equipment, which aids aircraft to take off and land at the domestic airport at night, was installed on the 2.7 kilometres long runway last November.

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