Thousands of air passengers bound for Lagos were this week stranded in various West African countries where their flights were diverted to following reported equipment failure at the MM International Airport Lagos.
Initially reported as weather-related diversion, which caused multiple airlines from the Mideast Europe and North America to be unable to due to poor visibility, investigations revealed that the harmattan alone was not the cause of the diversions.
Emirates, Delta, Qatar and British Airways were amongst the flights diverted to Accra Ghana while others were diverted to Dakar Senegal amongst others overwhelming those cities with thousands of passengers needing hotel accommodations and feeding for days.
According to a pilot of the affected airline, if the ILS system at Lagos airport had been functioning, even with the limited visibility he would have had “no problem landing” as they are used to landing in zero visibility such as during snow storms.
Irate passengers could not understand why Lagos airport which is an international hub in Africa did not have the ILS navigation system functioning while Abuja with less air traffic in a month than Lagos has in a day was fully operational okay.
Although the Nigerian authorities eventually calibrated the system to function, it was too late for the passengers on the Delta flight as the airline management ordered them to return back to US rather than wait interminably for Nigeria to get its act together or for the weather to improve.
Among the hundreds of passengers impacted were American celebrities, oil workers, an American music group with performances in Nigeria, guest speakers at conferences in Nigeria as well as NGO workers, business executives amongst others.
According to international human rights lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe
“The loss to the economy of these flights is humongous. Remember that each flight departing Nigeria is capital flight and each flight coming in is capital coming in whether in terms of the forex to be spent by the passengers or the goods and services they are bringing in etc.
Ghana and other countries profited from our losses.
It is unfortunate incidents like this that make the world wonder whether we are indeed ready for business. Can you imagine a long haul flight that came all the way from America only to turn and go back because of bad governance? No serious foreign investor would want to go through that.
It is ironic that just a week after British Airways set a world record for the fastest flight from New York to London at under fours by reach a speed of 800 miles per hour, we set a record for the slowest flight from New York to Lagos taking more than 48 hours instead of 10 hours and still not reaching. This graphically illustrates that as the world is advancing, we are retreating.
Initially people were calm and enduring considering it as force majuere (act of God) but it turned to fury when government incompetence was found to also be a factor (act of man.)
While a few people remained in Ghana to try other alternatives to get to Nigeria four days after they left US, most just returned to US to rearrange themselves.
This is not a case of US banning Nigeria. This is Nigeria banning itself.”