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Nigerian Flights Delayed by Safety Checks

Many air travelers in Nigeria’s busiest airport, in Lagos, say they have been experiencing long delays since the weekend. They blame the delays on the government’s order to carry out safety checks on all aircraft in the country.

For thousands of frustrated passengers, it means no easy connection to major destinations–including the capital, Abuja, in central Nigeria, and the hub of the oil business, the southern city of Port Harcourt.

President Olusegun Obasanjo ordered the audit after the country suffered its second crash on December 10, in which 107 people were killed, including more than 50 students of a Catholic secondary school in Abuja.

In the first incident, on October 22, a Bellview Airlines jet had crashed near Lagos, killing 117 people. Although investigations into the disasters are still underway, many here blame them on negligence and on old planes used by operators. Observers say most of the aircraft are about 30 years old. President Olusegun Obasanjo also says corruption is widespread in the aviation sector and has promised to fight it. He has already fired a number of aviation officials in the wake of the crashes.

In the meantime, many people have resorted to traveling by road despite fears about their poor condition and frequent attacks by bandits.