• Tuesday, March 05, 2024
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BusinessDay

The new look of Nigeria’s airports

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Since 1979 when the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) was built up to 2010/2011, the hut-like look and the antique scenery of Nigeria’s airports terminals was a source of discomfort, and an issue for condescending remarks on Nigeria. Many had been unable to hide their displeasure with the unenviable state of the nation’s airports because most structures within the airports had become outdated, only fitting for an era long dead.

However, between late 2010 and early 2011, a reconstruction work tagged ‘remodeling project’ was initiated. It was packaged in such a way that airports’ terminals and facilities would be remodeled, renovated or completely changed as the case may be. It was a well-thought out policy for an all-encompassing aviation roadmap with a strategy for their total reconstruction.

Following the commencement of the remodeling project in late-2011 the harrowing experiences of passengers at airports soon began to reduce as new facilities started resurfacing.

Currently, there are now 30 new immigration counters at the MMIA and travelers now heave a sigh of relief. Also, in the extended departure hall are five state -of-the-art screening machines, and two body scanners at each of the wings.

For the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport at Abuja, capacity and comfort has improved remarkably. With increased capacity at the new Abuja General Aviation Terminal, the terminal can take up to 1,000 passengers at a time. And with the installation of a new cooling system and modern passenger facilitating equipment and conveniences, passengers experience better comfort.

Significant improvement has also been recorded at airports in Kano, Enugu, Owerri, Yola, Lagos GAT, Port-Harcourt International wing, Sokoto and Kaduna.

While these improvements at the country’s airports are comforting and point to growing consciousness on the part of relevant authorities to make Nigeria major gateways dignified spaces as is prevalent in other climes, there is still much work left undone at the airports.

For instance, the Lagos airport still requires some salient security and safety apparatus to meet international standards. The MMIA which is supposed to be the nation’s flagship was fashioned after the design of the Schipol airport in Amsterdam. While Schipol airport has undergone series of changes in terms of structure, facilities and even in space the Lagos airport still remain a one terminal airport instead of three terminals as proposed in the original design. The remodeling being done has not in any way put it at par with its counterparts across the globe.

Another area of concern is the near or total absence of security fences or perimeter fencing in accordance with Aviation Security Standard in Annex 17 to the ICAO Convention at our airports. The implication of this inadequacy is that aircrafts in these airports are vulnerable to attacks  or any form of unlawful acts by airport invaders like the stowaway cases experienced recently or even to terrorist invasion.

Furthermore on safety, experts believe that government needs to pay a lot of attention to the whole gambit of aviation safety and security and not only airport renovation.

One critical safety lapse is the un-availability of a fool proof system for conducting background checks by the Police on airport staff before they are provided with Gate Passes that give them access into the Aircraft Operating Areas or the Airport Security Control Areas.  Similarly, the airlines too have no means to validate IDs or documents that prospective passengers are presenting before Tickets and Boarding Passes are issued to them.

We urge all relevant agencies to go beyond physical face-lift or aesthetics at the airports and focus also on safety of aircrafts, airspace and of the passengers in line with what is recommended as best practices.

With a growing hunger for foreign direct investments (FDIs), Nigeria’s airports should indeed inspire confidence in these target investors and portray the country as a suitable and safe place for their investments.