3 June 2013

Nigeria: Towards Sanity in the Airports


The decision of the federal government to rehabilitate and, in some cases, expand airports is commendable. However, the "Nigerian factor" seems to be at play in the exercise. For example, the civil works done at some airports appear shabby while the finishing in some cases seems tentative. At the Terminal 2 building in Lagos, it is difficult to understand why tinted glass was not used instead of plain glass affixed with cellophane tint; some of the cellophane is already peeling. The toilets are much better than what used to be the case in the past but they, too, look like temporary facilities. The conveyor belts are not yet functional. It is quite possible that what we are witnessing are teething problems associated with transformation from a dingy state to state-of-the-art. But we doubt that is the case.

The case of the local terminal of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja is even more worrying. Rehabilitation work at the airport has been completed but it is yet to be put to use for the benefit of the public. The present arrangement where international arrivals and departures share space with local flights is disgraceful. A first-time visitor alighting from the plane in Abuja is bound to wonder what sort of country this is - a country that can't even present a good first impression. There are rumours that the government is planning to convert the local wing in Abuja to a terminal for private jets. Again, we hope that is not the case. No government has a right to convert our collective patrimony to the parking lot of private jet owners many of whom would be hard put to explain the source of their wealth. Under no circumstance should a few moneyed people take precedence over the generality of Nigerians.

Also, in this age of security awareness it is difficult to believe that the authorities would allow the kind of scandalous hooliganism going on at the cargo section of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos. Those who have had the misfortune of having to send cargo through the shed adjacent to Arik Air building and opposite the NAA offices have told stories of outright bedlam in the place. It is a haven for all manner of thugs who wrestle cargo from the owners under the guise of being agents' representatives. They have reduced the entire place to a motor park. All this is happening in a country governed by laws.

Aviation minister Stella Oduah can begin to introduce some sanity by ensuring that those who have no business at our airports are kept out. Also, under no circumstance should certificates of completion be issued to contractors who deliver shabby jobs. The aviation minister has to rise to the occasion.

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