Minister of Aviation, Mr. Osita Chidoka

The Federal Government has said it cannot at the moment guarantee the safety and security of air travellers using the Asaba airport in Delta State.

As a result, the government on Tuesday barred the airport from being used for commercial flight operations.

It said the airport’s safety and security alert was due to the failure of the Delta State Government to fix the key infrastructure at the facility.

It said the state government refused to comply with directives from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority mandating it to fix some of the airport’s facilities such as repairs of the undulating runways, perimeter fencing of the facility and other issues.

The Ministry of Aviation, in a statement made available to our correspondent in Abuja, stated, “The Federal Government has downgraded the Asaba airport over the failure of the Delta State Government to put in place measures that will guarantee the safety and security of passengers using the airport.

“With the downgrading, which takes immediate effect, the airport will now be allowed to accommodate the operation of only Dash 8-Q 400 aircraft or its equivalent until all the safety issues are addressed.”

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The Dash 8 or Q series aircraft are twin-engine, medium range and turboprop airliners delivered in four series and cannot carry up to 80 persons, hence are not often used for commercial flight operations in Nigeria by the major carriers.

The Federal Government, according to the statement, stated that it had, through the NCAA, raised several safety concerns over undulations on the airport’s runway, lack of the required strip, perimeter fencing, drainage as well as lack of adequately trained technical personnel.

It said several talks with the Delta State Government to fix the airport yielded no concrete result, stressing that the facility was a huge security risk to travellers.

“It has, therefore, become a matter of serious concern that despite a series of meetings with, and assurances given by the operators of the airport, the Delta State Government, no concrete step has been taken to address the issues, which are capable of compromising the safety of flight operations and, of course, the passengers,” the ministry added in the statement.

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The ministry said the Federal Government had also drawn the attention of the state government to the fact that it had, through its inability to address the issues, violated the Compliance with Safety Standards as stipulated in the Nig CARs Part 12.6.2 and 12.6.3.

“The violations are in respect of the airport runway and its associated facilities as well as adequately trained personnel,” it added.

Explaining why a decisive action was taken against the operators and owners of the airport, the Minister of Aviation, Osita Chidoka, was quoted as saying, “The downgrading has been carried out in the public interest because the Federal Government places very high premium on the safety and security of air passengers and will never compromise set standards for whatever reason.”

The minister, however, gave an assurance that the airport would revert to its previous status as soon as all the safety concerns were adequately and satisfactorily addressed.