Bayelsa airport: Why NCAA should not shift ground

RECENTLY, the immediate past Governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson inaugurated the N60 billion Bayelsa International Airport joining other states across the country to have an airport.

Like the reasons given by other state governments for building airports for their citizens, Dickson attributed reasons behind providing an airport for his people to his resolve to attract flight operations into the Bayelsa airport and stimulate business activities in the state.

Speaking at the inauguration, the former governor while appealing to the Federal Government to approve necessary permits to enable the state airport to operate, equally took a swipe at the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for allegedly playing politics with the project.

Dickson who said his government single handedly sand filled the airport without help from the federal government, declared “The airport is one of the best in the country. It has latest equipment in the aviation industry. It will bring the world to the Ijaw nation and open up Bayelsa State for rapid development. We call on NCAA and the Federal Government to issue the necessary permits to enable the airport take off. This airport will outlive all of us and will continue to serve the Ijaw nation and the world.”

But the Director of Operations and Training and Acting Director General NCAA, Captain Abdullahi Sidi had in a chat with journalists explained that the issue affecting the Bayelsa airport was safety related which he said had nothing to do with politics.

Captain Sidi said a perimeter fencing around the airport was a non-negotiable security feature for the airport’s functionality stating that until they comply, the airport would remain so.

“After I did my own investigation, Perimeter fencing is number one requirement for airports safety, when I asked the Bayelsians, they said they’ve not finished the perimeter fencing, they have done 60-80 per  but the other side is a creek, water and so on but that is not acceptable.”

Also reacting to the former governor’s accusation, Sam Adurogboye, the spokesperson for the NCAA, said the safety issues noted by the NCAA inspectors during their visits to the airport were yet to be resolved.

“NCAA inspectors went there and inspected the airport, they came back and submitted a report based on which a position was taken, now that issues or what we call open items or deficiencies were communicated to the authority, managers of the airport, it is for them (Bayelsa government) to correct them, take what is called corrective action and communicate that back to the NCAA and NCAA would go there again and inspect.

“The issue is that lives are involved and there are things to be done which is according to the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations, once it is not complied with, it cannot be used, it is an aspiration, you can build it, you can open it, you can do all manners of fun-fair, the issue is that, does it comply with the provision of the regulation? Once it does not comply, it cannot be used; those who will fly there know what to do.”

For the umpteenth time, it is high time for those occupying high places such as Governors, Ministers, National Assembly and other political class to realise that aviation related issues including the principles of building an airport is not played on a platter of local politics.

Airport construction has its rules and games as stipulated by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standard and recommended practices in line with safety components.

The allegations of politicisation the former governor held on to do not hold water in a critical issue of airport construction. There are rules guarding and guiding airport building and the rules can never be changed for whatever reason.

Nigeria is a member state and signatory to ICAO laws, hence; such laws must be adhered to, to the latter without any local colouration.

While the NCAA must stand its ground on this issue is that, as the aviation regulatory body for the country, the blame will fall on its table should any untoward issue arising from failure to protect an airport with the critical safety structure like perimeter fence at a newly constructed airport like Bayelsa airport happen.

There should be no bending of the rules guiding standard airport components in the country and this should not be politicised because lives are involved.

Above all, the NCAA in particular should be more proactive whenever any state governor indicates plans to build an airport to avoid a repeat of the ongoing intrigues about the Bayelsa airport. The NCAA should possibly caution any other state wanting to construct an airport to ensure all the requirements guiding airport constructions are met before its inauguration.

NCAA should not allow itself to be coerced into approving the commencement of flight operations into the Bayelsa airport until all the safety issues are complied with. As good as having airport, the lives of the prospective users of that airport are equally very important.

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