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Our worsening airport blues

Hardly does a week pass these days without one sad or near-tragic incident or the other being reported about our airports and aviation industry.

A couple of weeks ago, there was a report of an Aero Contractors flight from Abuja which spent a long period in the skies under a severe weather condition before its pilot was able to land. A week earlier, a Dana Air flight en route to Abuja also narrowly escaped crashing after a bird-strike attack.

It led to the stoppage of an engine and setting of the other engine on fire, but the pilot bravely guided the plane safely back to the Murtala Mo-hammed Airport, Ikeja.

Recently, passengers waiting to board flights going out of Nigeria were forced to wait for four hours as a result of power failure.

An airport of  Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) magnitude does not have an effective back-up in respect of electric power system. The power outage led to the breakdown of facilities in the airport. Boarding procedures had to stop.

The heat that came on made life almost unbearable for passengers usually drawn from all over the world. According to reports, the toilets started smelling, contributed to the miserable experience  passengers went through. Only goodness knows the amount of image damage this country suffered in those four hours, not to talk of the possible air disasters that could have cropped up in case the airport control towers loses touch with incoming aircraft.

The condition of the nation’s premier airport was given considerable face-lift when in 2007 Bi-Courtney Air Services was able to complete and put into use, its state-of-the-art terminal, the Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal Two (MMA2).

For the first time in Nigeria’s recent history, we started seeing in the local wing of the international airport the kinds of facilities that other civilised countries have come to take for granted. The three-storey  parking lot was an innovation that helped in  security of vehicles at the airport, especially for those needing to stay overnight. This is the picture that many are hoping for the Terminal One, which remains chaotic till date.

However, Bi-Courtney has already started demonstrating the fact that it is still a Nigerian business outfit, operated by Nigerians, who have almost zero regard for maintenance culture. Its computerised ticketing system broke down about six months after MMA2 was commissioned and since then it has been handled manually. One of the electric escalators broke down sometime ago and has remained cordoned off.

The passenger and luggage screening gates have started breaking down too.

Nigerian airports, especially the international wing, is a major gateway into Nigeria. It is one of the prisms through which the world sees Nigeria. If we are still talking about re-branding of Nigeria, we must ensure that our airports are run by people who are patriots, who are hungry to see that both Nigerians and foreigners alike have reason to think well of our country through the quality of services they provide.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.