When will Bayelsa International Airport commence flight operations? This is the question on the lips of many observers and aviation stakeholders following the commissioning of the airport a few days ago by the outgoing Governor of the state, Mr. Seriake Dickson.
The commissioning of the N60bn airport by the governor barely four days to the expiration of his eight-year tenure has been mired in controversy.
The purported commissioning came about a year when the first flight landed at the airport amidst pump and pageantry by the state government as they rolled out the drums to celebrate the landing. But the February 14, 2019 ceremonial ‘first landing’ was just the beginning and end of flight operations to the newly opened airport located in the heart of the South-South Nigeria.
While some domestic airlines have indicated interest in flying to the new airport, it was gathered that the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the apex regulatory authority did not approve the airport for commercial flight operations.
It then becomes an issue how and who approved the first flight that landed at the airport when it has not been fully certified for flight operations. “Who cleared the aircraft flight plans and the clearance to land? Who were the crew? Are the license of all these validated by the NCAA? If the NCAA was not an accomplice in any or all these, it should do the necessary due diligence; invalidate their licenses,” said an aviation security analyst, Group Capt. John Ojikutu, rtd.
Six months after the ceremonial first landing/inauguration at the airport, the acting Director-General of the NCAA, Capt. Sidi Abdullahi said the airport lacks perimeter fencing which is a major security requirement for any airport.
“That perimeter fencing is the only thing remaining for Bayelsa International Airport. There is no politics about it. That is the requirement. And anything security is taken seriously. It is a security issue. If we need to close an airport because of security issue, we will until they comply.”
But one year after the inauguration, the governor threw another celebration on Monday by commissioning the airport with many asking how many times the airport would be inaugurated, commissioned or opened.
Dickson at the ‘commissioning’ called on the Federal Government and aviation authorities to expedite the required approvals for commercial operations to commence. The governor declared that the project was initiated and commissioned by the state government without any input from the Federal Government.
But the NCAA yesterday clarified that the flights conducted at the Bayelsa International airport on February 14, 2019 were part of the demonstration flights that were conducted as the regulation stipulates when a new airport is being opened.
Spokesman of the authority, Mr. Sam Adurogboye in a chat with Daily Trust however said though Bayelsa government had written to the NCAA to get the airport certified, some of the open items like the perimeter fencing noticed by the NCAA team are yet to be closed.
“The issue is very clear. When an airport manager builds his airport, he would apply to NCAA. We have gone there and we said that there are some open items. They have not communicated to us that the open items have been rectified,” he said. He reiterated that the non-certification of the airport has no political undertone. “We don’t talk politics when it comes to safety. We don’t even discuss that at all,” Adurogboye added.
Source: Daily Trust