Nigeria 'plane graveyard' cleared

Image source, AP
Image caption,
Some planes were abandoned eight years ago

At least 65 planes abandoned at airports across Nigeria will be dismantled to help improve air safety, an official has said.

Airport operations Director Henry Omeogu said the planes had been left to rot by insolvent companies.

Workers at the international airport in Lagos are currently dismantling planes abandoned in an area called the "graveyard", AP news agency reports.

Disused planes range from small jets to a Boeing 747, Mr Omeogu said.

The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) ordered the destruction after companies repeatedly ignored appeals to remove the planes, he said.

"None of them is serviceable because most of their owners have closed shop," Mr Omeogu was quoted by Nigeria's Punch newspaper as saying.

"Unfortunately, such owners don't want to evacuate them for reasons best known to them."

The Terminal Manager at Lagos's Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Olutayo Oginnie, said some of the abandoned planes were seized for transporting smuggled goods.

They included a Boeing 737-200, impounded by the Nigerian Customs Service about eight years ago, he said.

'Hallelujah abandoned'

There are about a dozen cargo and passenger planes at what workers call the "graveyard", an overgrown field at the far north end of the runway at the airport, which is a major transport hub for West Africa, AP reports.

Planes abandoned at other airports, including in the capital, Abuja, and the main northern city, Kano, would also be dismantled, Mr Omeogu said.

Mr Omeogu added that the initiative was aimed at improving air safety.

"They [Nigerians] need to fly and feel safe in their aeroplanes," he is quoted by AP as saying.

The dismantled planes would be transported to a steel company in the north-western Kebbi state for recycling into other industrial products, Mr Omeogu said, Punch reports.

FAAN Corporate Communications Manager Yakubu Dati said airports could not be treated as dumping grounds.

"We are more concerned about the safety and security implications of these aircraft at the airports," he is quoted by Punch as saying.

"There is even an environmental implication. For instance, reptiles may hide inside any of the aircraft."

Nigeria's aviation industry has a poor safety record.

Last June, 163 people were killed when a Dana Air passenger jet crashed in Lagos after both its engines failed.

In October 2005, a plane owned by Bellview Airlines crashed, killing 117 people.

The company collapsed after the accident, but two of its planes lay abandoned at Murtala Muhammed airport, AP reports.

An airline called Space World also had two aircraft abandoned at the airport - Hallelujah 1 and Hallelujah 2, it reports.

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