Passengers travelling to international destinations from Lagos airport were yesterday delayed for hours because of the difficulty in checking them in manually.
The Common User Terminal Equipment (CUTE) was shut down and individual airlines had to resort to the gruesome process of visual identification of the passengers before issuing them boarding passes.
That was the aftermath of the forceful termination of the services of Maevis Limited, which provides Airport Operations Management System (AOMS), which includes CUTE, at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, respectively by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
Since 2007 when Maevis signed concession agreement with the agency, it had been widely acknowledged that the firm was providing easy passenger facilitation that provided timeliness, easy profiling of passengers and comprehensive security checks.
The concession agreement was for 10 years, renewable for another five years, but in the midnight of last Friday, a team of FAAN officials with its security operatives allegedly forced Maevis officials out of their offices and terminated its services.
When THISDAY visited the international terminal of the airport yesterday, it observed that all the flight display monitors and the data systems were off and in their stead the airlines pasted handwritten posters that were almost invisible in the semi-lit check-in counters.
A senior passenger handling officer for one of Europe's major carriers told THISDAY that the manual check-in system was causing a lot of delays, adding that the flight that was supposed to leave at about 10:00 pm ast Friday left at about 2:00 am on Saturday.
"Today, the same thing is going to happen because there are even more passengers than yesterday. Today is March 25, the summer season has started today and the number of passengers will multiply. Why did FAAN have to wait till this summer season to do it? If you look, rehabilitation work is going on at the airport and this is discomforting both passengers and the airline workers and in addition to this, we are doing manual check-in," he said.
Asked how the handling officers identify the passengers that met the criteria to travel, the source said: "When we get the passenger ticket, we take it in to cross check it with our system before we issue boarding pass. It is slow and cumbersome. It will be extremely difficult to cope with summer passengers."
Meanwhile, at a press conference yesterday in Lagos, Maevis Executive Director, Marketing and Finance, Mrs. Tokumbo Fagbemi, narrated how the Maevis officials were moved from their offices.
Fegbemi said: "FAAN's conduct is not only shameful and despicable; it is in complete disregard for the rule of law. Justice B.F.M. Nyako of the Federal High Court in suit no. FHC/CS/1155/2010 had ordered FAAN to desist from interfering with the implementation of the agreement until the dispute is resolved by arbitration."
She said that FAAN was not interested in resolving any perceived differences by civil means.
"It is bent on its chosen path and course of intimidation, perhaps to advance certain vested interests," she said.
She alleged that FAAN was economical with the truth saying, "referring to a purported termination letter of March 2011, which the court on May 19th 2011 correctly derided as being inimical to its standing order in the ruling of 17th December 2010".
Fagbemi called on President Goodluck Jonathan, the regulatory and security agencies and all well-meaning Nigerians to help protect "our investment and stop these acts of impunity" and also to call FAAN to order to make sure it respected court rulings.
In another development, in a statement signed by the General Manager, Public Affairs of FAAN, Mr. Akin Olukunle, FAAN said that it took a major step on Saturday to improve its services and revenue profile in line with the transformation agenda of the Federal Government as it enforced the termination of its concession agreement with Maevis Limited.
The agency explained that it entered a concession agreement with Maevis on October 31, 2007 but "in compliance with a directive from the Federal Ministry of Aviation to FAAN, stemming from a decision of the three Honourable Ministers of Aviation, Labour and Justice, a notice of termination was duly issued to Maevis on 24 February 2011 with a two-month notice period with regards to the Concession Agreement. Thus the Concession effectively terminated on expiration of this notice on the 23rd of May, 2011".
"It is also necessary to recall that a year earlier, specifically in May 2010, the Senate Committee on Aviation had invited both parties to a public hearing. After listening to both sides and reviewing the terms of the agreement and implementation thereof, resolved that FAAN should dispense with the services of Maevis Ltd since it was not adding value to FAAN's revenue profile,"â€Ã‹,he added.