INSIGHT: Shaky finances rattle Nigeria's airline safety

Mon Nov 5, 2012 9:35am GMT

By Tim Cocks

LAGOS (Reuters) - Passengers arriving at Murtala Mohammed airport in Lagos could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled into a refugee camp.

In a big white tent a throng of people struggle with luggage in the sapping heat and humidity. In front of makeshift service counters they form something that might be a queue but looks more like a scrum.

The only clue that this is one of the most important domestic air terminals serving Africa's second-biggest economy and top oil producer is that many wear business suits.

Terminal Two, where Arik Air has operated out of a tent for a year while repair work goes on, is not the only evidence that Nigerian aviation is in chaos.

In the last four months, Nigeria has seen a plane crash kill 163 people, the collapse of one of its main international airlines and a central bank order banning lenders from giving its main carriers more cash until they repay burgeoning debts.

Documents obtained by Reuters from now defunct Air Nigeria suggest financial mismanagement was largely to blame for its collapse last month, though its owner Jimoh Ibrahim disagrees.

Insiders say other airlines are also in dire financial straits, which could soon have grave consequences for air safety in a country that already has one of the world's worst records.

'Last flight to Abuja', a film about a plane crash caused by mechanical failure, is the longest running box office smash in 'Nollywood', Africa's answer to Hollywood and the world's third biggest film industry.   Continued...

Exterior view of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos December 27, 2009. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye
Powered by Reuters AlertNet. AlertNet provides news, images and insight from the world's disasters and conflicts and is brought to you by Reuters Foundation.