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Nigeria Starts Dismantling Its Plane 'graveyard'

Planes sit at airports across the country, partly due to local regulations allowing airlines to park their planes for free at any airport they declare as their base of operations, Omeogu said. Some companies became insolvent and left planes still loaded with first-class china service and large briefcases for captains containing flight manuals.

Other aircraft sit parked on the apron nearby, including one for Air Nigeria, which collapsed last year amid allegations that owner Jimoh Ibrahim hadn't paid staff for at least four months, despite receiving millions of dollars from a government bailout fund. An airplane from Ibrahim's Nicon Airways, which collapsed after one year of operations in 2007, sits in the graveyard as well.

For years, the planes sat, partly out of the inertia that often grips government in Nigeria, an oil-rich nation earning billions that has an ailing state-run power company that can't provide reliable supplies of electricity for the nation's more than 160 million people. But in the last few weeks, government officials decided the planes must go, partly out of security concerns as a radical Islamist sect continues to launch bloody attacks in the country.

Officials decided to offer the planes free to those who applied for them. On Thursday, workers used hammers and saws to tear apart fuselages as landing aircraft roared overhead. Seats rose up in the tall grass, as oxygen masks and paperwork littered the ground. Most of the planes appear to be heading to scrapyards.

The removal of the planes come as Nigeria's federal government is remodeling terminals, some of which haven't seen much work in as many as 50 years. The government also has announced plans to buy planes and begin its own national carrier. However, corruption allegations still lurk. In September, Nigeria's largest carrier, Arik Air, halted its domestic flights and alleged that Aviation Minister Stella Oduah had a financial interest in seeing their business fail. Oduah denied the claims through a spokesman and the airline began flying again days later.

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