opinionBy Chris Agabi
Lagos — By the end of this month, works on the eleven airports undergoing remodeling across the country under the phase one airports remodeling efforts would have been completed.
The rehabilitation programme commenced last year with the cost of N19 billion. The second phase of the remodeling exercise is expected to commence in June with another N19 billion.
Some of the airports being remodeled in the first phase are the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos; Nnamdi Azikiwe Intenational Airport, Abuja; Sam Mbakwe Airport, Owerri; Yola Airport and Benin Airport.
Last week, the Minister for Aviation Princess Stella Oduah inspected the progress of work done in some of the airports. She inspected work in Benin, Kano, Owerri, Abuja and Lagos airports. Collectively she gave 85 percent grade on the score card. She is confident that all the airports will be delivered by the end of month.
The Managing Director of Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria Mr. George Uriesi had explained that the rationale for the rehabilitation was an underpinning philosophy to create the kind of space, the kind of comfort and ambience modern airports provide so that passengers on getting into the airports would feel the sense of being respected.
The airports expansion was to bring in a better commercial offering because the airport was about the commercial activities that happen there, he had said.
He said: "The design of our airports in the 1970s left out these commercial aspects because it was designed purely as aeronautical infrastructure. Every night you see a crowd of people outside there waiting for people. For me, when I look at that crowd of people, I see dollar signs that are not captured.
"They should not be standing outside there waiting for passengers; they should be sitting inside the terminal, eating and drinking in an environment like that. For us, it is a way of making money, the concessionaires are making money, meters and greeters are happy and that is how an airport environment is supposed to be."
He added that FAAN was losing business because of infrastructure deficit and part of the philosophy was to invite all the people that hang outside.
"Let them come and be part of the airport experience, let them come and spend more money in the airport, let them be happy, let us be happy, let our business partners be happy. We are trying to achieve that in all the international airports across the country," he said.
After the inspections of works at the airports last week, the Minister Prince Oduah said: "we have done more than 85 per cent of work on the airports. From the end of this month we will start commissioning. Construction is a long process because the foundation has to be right and I think in the context of one to 100, I will give us 80, 85 percent."
She is satisfied with the quality of work done.
She said: "We have our own quality department working with them at all times. We want to make sure that we don't play with customers' safety at all times, which is why we are doing total reconstructing and reconstruction of the airports. Every airport going forward will be brand new with double capacities. Every airport in the country would be remodeled.
"The contractor has done his best. Transformation is double if we want. The reconstruction here is a testimony to that effect. Some people are ill spirited. They don't like Nigeria. We either transform or we perish. I don't think we want to perish. If you don't believe in the transformation, take a trip to Kano or any other airport we are remodeling. Seeing they say is believing."
"What we are doing goes beyond remodeling of the airports, we are actually doing restructuring and reconstructing of the airports. We are just starting to go round the airport. We are doubling the sizes of those terminals and changing all the facilities and utilities within the airport. So, you can't call that remodeling, it is restructuring and reconstructing.
"That is what we are doing to ensure that passengers have safety model of transportation and we want to ensure that passengers have value for their money. Most importantly, we want every Nigerian and stakeholders to be proud of our airport environments. It is a total transformation of the aviation sector."
She said the challenges so far has come from those that have benefitted from the destruction and negligence of this sector. "They have been the major problem that we have encountered because I don't know why anybody should be anti-progress. Why should anybody be against transformation? I don't understand it. This administration is a transformation one and we would transform from bad to good," she said.
Director General Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Dr. Harold Demuren said security concerns are being addressed with the remodeling.
He said: "You will recall that after the Mutallab episode, we came out with various security measures for the industry and what we are saying is that every passenger must pass through 100 per cent security checks at the airport.
"The remodeling we are doing right now, we have taken that into consideration and what we are really doing is that when you come in, there is no way for you to avoid security. All your bags, everything will be screened and we are being courteous than we used to be.
"When this one is completed, you know we used to open the bags and every other thing, but now, we have put in place equipment that can detect everything you have. Whether it is explosives, liquid, powder and co, we don't care what it is; we can find them out now."
He explained further that security will now be right at the gates. "We will screen right at the entrance and then, we will have another screening at the centre. With those two, you can't miss it. So, we are very happy that is what we are bringing in now," he said.
He also said the Abuja will remain locked until all security gadgets are installed. "We will not open the airport (Abuja) unless the security gadgets are installed; we want to assure you of that. Security is number one for us and that is what we will continue to do."