Recently, the airfield lighting systems that were recently reinstalled on the domestic runway 18/36L of Murtala Muhammad Airport have reportedly been stolen by unknown individuals. The disappearance of the approach lighting systems has raised concerns regarding airport security in Nigeria’s busiest airports.
According to an anonymous source, the theft took place during the three-month closure of the runway, with some workers from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) allegedly collaborating with external individuals to steal the airport lighting equipment. The source revealed that a significant portion of the lighting was removed, but the exact value of the stolen items is unknown. The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Aviation, Dr. Emmanuel Meribole, has ordered the suspension of several heads of relevant departments at FAAN in connection with the missing lighting equipment.
Investigations have been launched to identify those responsible for the theft. The source disclosed that these incidents of incursion and theft of safety components at airports are often carried out by a syndicate, which includes certain agency workers with access to restricted areas and external accomplices.
A high-ranking FAAN official, who preferred to remain anonymous, stated that FAAN’s Managing Director, Mr. Kabir Yusuf, expressed displeasure with the situation. The managing director has also instructed the suspension of security personnel responsible for guarding critical airport facilities.
In response to the developments, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (retd.), a former Military Commandant at Murtala Muhammed International Airport, highlighted that such incidents are not new and suggested stricter measures. Ojikutu shared his experience of deploying soldiers on the runways during a similar period in 1990, effectively putting a stop to runway lighting thefts.
Yakubu Funtua, the Director of Public Affairs and Consumer Protection at FAAN, stated that investigations are underway, and the agency is committed to taking necessary measures to prevent a recurrence. Funtua emphasized that attributing the theft solely to FAAN staff would be unfair, as there are multiple agencies responsible for security within the airport.
For 15 years, the domestic runway 18L at Lagos Airport remained closed to night operations due to the absence of airfield lighting. Consequently, domestic airlines were forced to use runway 19 at the international airport, resulting in increased fuel consumption due to the longer distance.
In November, the airfield lighting equipment was finally installed on the 2.7-kilometer long domestic runway, enabling night-time takeoffs and landings at the airport.
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