• Tuesday, March 05, 2024
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MMIA: Relief as new aviation facilities open to travellers

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The Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) edifice was built over 30 years ago but has not really had any major facelift since the Schipol airport which it was fashioned after had undergone series of expansion.

In fact, my recent visit to Amsterdam shows that the airport has become a city of sort with many state-of-the art facilities that has turned the place to a tourist attraction.

But many ministers of aviation had come under many administrations in Nigeria and had not been able to do anything about the antiquities at the MMIA which is supposed to be the hub of air transport in West Africa.

All that the ministers do is to come and inspect the old facilities and leave for Abuja with empty promises of turning things around.

Fidelia Njeze, the former aviation minister, had initiated plans to remodel or renovate the airports after she toured them and discovered they were eyesores. As usual, she hyped the programme for months until a cabinet reshuffle ended her tenure.

As soon as Stella Oduah, the current minister of aviation came on board, rather than initiate her own policy or plans for the airport as many ministers would do, she continued with the remodelling project and today, many airports’ terminals have been turned around as passengers have begun to heave a sigh of relief with modern facilities.

Currently, the newly remodelled departure/screening points containing 30 new immigration counters at the MMIA has been opened to traffic as travellers begin to heave sigh of relief.

The extended Departure Hall features five state-of-the-art screening machines and two body scanners at each of the wings.

A distinguishing feature of the new screening machines is the ability to detect explosive materials and potential threat items real time with the lowest rate of false alarm.

With the introduction of 30 new immigration counters as against the previous 9,  passenger facilitation is expected to be taken to another level as there will be quick response from the counters.

The extended Departure Hall consists of 14 check-in counters, seven hand-luggage X-ray machines and eight walk-through body scanners at the E finger.

Yakubu Dati, spokesman for Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), explained that the facility is equipped with 11 toilet facilities for both male and female passengers, as well as disabled persons. He said the new extension comes with commercial offerings adding that the duty free shops will afford passengers the opportunity for last minute shopping,  refreshments and other conveniences in line with global standards and  recommended practices.

“The improvements in physical extension of the passenger handling area is by one-and-a-half times or 150 percent more than its previous size. Three new hi-tech conveyor systems have also been installed in this new section since early this year. This has been easing the experience of passengers who now enjoy faster processing of their luggage and personal effects.

“The new conveyor systems can process the luggage of 1,000 passengers per hour, passenger processing is now faster and the congestion has been eradicated in line with the Aviation Road map initiated by Minister of Aviation,” he added.

The ongoing remodelling, according to Dati,  has led to an expansion of about 25 percent as against the former operational area, in expectation of the expected passenger growth.

Dati explained that the new facility is part of the strategy by President Jonathan Goodluck to make Murtala Mohammed International Airport,  the preferred regional hub in the West African sub-region.

Airports terminals  like Kano,  Enugu, Owerri, Yola, Lagos General Aviation Terminal, Abuja General Aviation Terminal, Port-Harcourt International wing, Sokoto and Kaduna Hajj are already completed.

Speaking on the airport, Oduah while inspecting the facilities,  assured that the airport would be commissioned before the end of first quarter of 2014.

“We want to be able to start the usage of all these facilities by first quarter of next year. What is very key is that passenger travelling experience will be very different.

“It will be the way it should be; it means you have the comfort, you have the safety and you have the security and most importantly as you’ve seen we’ve increased the capacity which means you have ample space to really do what you are supposed to do.

“The Owerri Airport is ready, so is Sokoto,  Akure and Yola airports. Several of them are ready, we are just bidding the time to make sure that if there are t’s to be crossed and i’s to be dotted, we dot all of them. So from January, we would start commissioning the projects, but we are allowing passengers to use some of them because they deserve the best.”

With increased capacity at the new Abuja GAT, it  can take up to 1,000 passengers at a time as it has been installed with new cooling system and modern passenger facilitating equipment and conveniences.

The Benin airport terminal which constituted an embarrassment to Nigerians by reason of its antiquated infrastructure has now become a thing of pride as the terminal boasts of new facilities apart from an expanded terminal.

By: Sade Williams