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Nigeria at 50: It’s an opportunity to further upgrade airport facilities , Iyal

By Kenneth Ehigiator

Capt. Shehu Usman Iyal is Senior Special Assistant to the president on Aviation. He is also the Chairman, Aviation Committee of Nigeria@50 celebration.

Capt. Shehu Usman Iyal In this interview with Vanguard in Lagos last week, Capt. Iyal explains steps taken by the committee so far to ensure that facilitation for dignitaries that would be coming for the celebration is seamless at designated airports in the country. Excerpts:

What is your committee doing to ensure that the nation’s airports are in top shape for the celebration, especially in view of world leaders coming for the ceremony?

We have just finished inspection of facilities and we’ve had interviews and discussions with FAAN, NAMA and the Presidential protocol lounge to see their state of readiness and see the amount of job that had been done and to see what is left to be able to give us functional, safe and befitting airports for this purpose.

Did the facility tour you just had put up the picture of which agency and organisation were involved and the outcome of the tour? What were the new challenges that you discovered that you need to take care of between now October 1?

Like you that is very familiar with Lagos airport, we want it to be an international airport indeed, because some of the visitors that will come on commercial flight will come through Lagos and it is important that they have the right impression of what Nigeria is all about. Without any gainsaying, we all know that Lagos is the gateway to Nigeria, so we have to make sure that the cooling system at the airport, the power supply, the security, the water supply to the airport, they’re all functional and they are in good shape. Yes, there are problems, and we know the problems, the committee has representatives from all the parastatals, FAAN, NAMA, NCAA, NIMET, the security apparatus, and the airport commandant of all the airports are members. So we discussed, they came with their demands, what needed to be fixed, where they are, what should be done and we forwarded it to the main committee.

Some amount were voted for and money was made available and was given through the line ministry, which is the Aviation Ministry. And then the Aviation Ministry dispatches this through the respected parastatals that are responsible for these facilities. To deal with the airports, is FAAN, to deal with the NAVAIDS is NAMA, to deal with meteorological equipment, NIMET and there are things to be done at the presidential lounge, because we are expecting two very important guests through the Lagos airport. And I am pleased to inform you that, even the Lagos State Government is partnering with us in this event to see that we get a befitting celebration.

So, how many Heads of State and Government is the committee expecting in the country for the event?
Well, we are expecting nothing less than 50 Heads of State and it is in view of this that we have said Abuja cannot handle it alone, Lagos can not handle it alone, we have gone out to identify other airports that are quite close to Abuja airport. And it is the traditional thing in all other countries that when you are doing this kind of celebration, when you have so many heads of states and presidents and other people coming into the country, they can bring their jets, they will land in Abuja and the airplanes will go into other places and park. Going further from what you asked, what are the areas we looked into? The NAVAIDS, that is the Instrument Landing System,

ILS, and other associated things like the airport lightings, the VOR and so many other things that are associated to making a safe flow of traffic during that time. And I am pleased to inform you that with our last meeting that we had with NAMA, they assured us that there is going to be a seamless flow of traffic in all the airports. Money has been voted and made available for their spare parts, where other things are not available, all the anticipated shortage, like diesel, PMS, there are provisions for that. So people are aware of what to do and what they need to do and what they must do. The aim is to project Nigeria positively. Like I said, I will keep on repeating myself, the airport is the number one point that any visitor will see on arrival.

In Abuja last year, U.S. Secretary of State, Mrs. Hilary Clinton, had to take her aircraft for parking in Accra. The last secretary before her did the same thing, are those things that make them not to park in Abuja gone now?

They are being addressed. We are aware of those two incidents. And their complaint then was that our apron was not properly lit and they are not comfortable with the security level. It is one of the things that my committee looked into and we made sure that it had been done and what we want to make fully ready before the end of the month is to have all these aprons properly lit. How do you do that? You must have enough power supply, and you must have the bulbs and the light fittings functional.

FAAN is on top of that and we, as a committee, are inspecting and we have inspected and we shall inspect again before that date. And this is one of the issues we noticed and we raised. Even in Lagos airport and the presidential lounge, the apron lightings are being improved upon. And Abuja, that is going to be lit because we are taking care of that.

And then the security aspect of it. We have even gone further than that. Aviation security, Customs, Immigration, Police and all the people that will be involved in Nigeria @ 50 for the actual airport job are being trained at the moment. We took them to Zaria and an induction course was given to them lasting two weeks. They were given lectures about protocol, about security, safety and general awareness and how to behave to make sure that Nigeria is projected positively. So in all those areas that we know we are lacking, this is a grand opportunity for us to project this country and we are sure to meet up. And we hope it continues thereafter.

Talking about collaboration, in specific terms, what are those things the Lagos State Government will do or is doing to give the visiting Heads of State a warm welcome?

We are reliably informed that they are going to be part of visitation team at the airport, so there are one or two things they are wiling to shoulder and then they will build it to make sure that the place really has the right ambience and the right status to welcome people, not only to Nigerian but to Lagos State as the gateway.

I don’t know what your committee is doing to ensure that all the security agencies at the international airport work in synergy to ensure seamless passage for the VIPs that would be coming in..

The synergy is there and why I say this is because in this committee of ours, all the military airport commandants are members, aviation security from FAAN are members of our committee. Again, the police, in fact, the Commissioner of Police in charge of anti-terrorism is a member and is one of the lecturers that lectured in Zaria on the induction about security awareness and what you need to do for everybody.

And in each airport, there is what we call airport security committee which is chaired by the airport manager and all the other members on the other security organization that are present at the airports are members. We are talking about the Nigerian Police, SSS and aviation security people.
What is your assessment of the level of job done so far?

Well, I am somebody who think positively. From what I have seen and from the discussion we had with the engineers in charge of the projects from FAAN, because they even took us to their water treatment system and to almost everywhere were they are working on, they gave us all the assurance that they will be ready and they will not let Nigerians down. And I think this is a time where we all know that we need to project our country positively. I think and I believe all hands should be on deck and that the management and staff of FAAN, may need to go up to make sure that they do this right. People like you in the media, by creating the awareness level and helping us, I think we will be able to get there.

How much do you need to inject or has injected into all the agencies and the various organizations in preparation for the anniversary?
I can’t give you the exact amount. But I think for each organization what we did as a sub_committee was to asked them what their needs are. What are the areas that are very important to them? And they did bring it and we looked at it. We have had to date 10 meetings strategising. Thereafter, we passed their requirements to the main committee, which looked at it, studied it, and see what they could do and what they cannot do and then they gave reasons.

Thereafter, approval was giving and this committee sat and agreed with another committee setup by the Ministry of Aviation, which is the line ministry for all these issues and then agreed on the priority items and how to go about them. I am proud to tell you that most of these things are being done by the parastatals through direct purchase or direct labour.

Where they need to purchase, they go straight to the manufacturer and get that done. So the ball is in the court of the parastatals. But unlike other events or other things that have happened earlier, there is very close monitoring of their activities. This is like our second visit and I am assuring you before the event, there is going to be another visit.

To those of you that have been to Abuja airport on the international terminal, I am sure you have seen some visible changes and the rate it is going on, even the expansion of the apron wing. We may not be able to finish all but, at least, what I want Nigerians and every other person to understand is that this event will happen in October, this event, yes, is very important because 50 years is no joke, but at the end of the day, all these infrastructure would be left and would remain here in Nigeria and at our airport. And another thing we are able to get, because we get feedback from the participants of the induction course that we had. It is so useful, they get to know each other, they get to understand each other and that brings me to what you are asking about how much synergy we are able to get among them? It will interest you to know that they ask that such get_together, whereby they all get together and discuss and move forward, we should be able to sustain it, at least once every quarter and bring them together. Here again, I thank the Rector of NCAT for giving us the venue and for hosting this course. It has been wonderful and he has been very cooperative and he gave all the assistance.

I don’t know what the committee is doing to do to ensure smooth movement of the VIPs from Abuja airport to the FCT, considering the perennial traffic that had been the hallmark of the road from the airport to town?

It is one of the issues we have noticed and we are taking it up with the Commander of Federal Road Safety Corp, FRSC, and I think there are some remarkable improvement. I followed the road yesterday, unlike other times, I saw how his men are up and doing and I am sure with this idea that you have raised, we are going to take it up in our committee meeting and then with the Nigeria at 50 main committee, We will take it to them that something must be done. There are other committees other than aviation, we have the protocol, the security, medical, name it. So it is going to be a kind of team work with all the committees to make sure that we get it right.

What will be done in other airports, aside Abuja and Lagos?
We are doing the same thing. One, NAMA is making sure that their NAVAIDS are functional. Two, the airfield lightings; three, the apron lightings; four, security because a Head of State coming to park his airplane in Minna or Ilorin would want to be safe. So we are making sure all that is done. And we divided ourselves into groups and other people have been to all those airports to see what had been done, what needs to be done and what must be done between now and that time. And we are meeting again to ensure that all these things are done. And I am assuring you, reasonable amount of work had been done in those airports.

Capt. Shehu Usman Iyal is Senior Special Assistant to the president on Aviation. He is also the Chairman, Aviation Committee of Nigeria@50 celebration. In this interview with Vanguard in Lagos last week, Capt. Iyal explains steps taken by the committee so far to ensure that facilitation for dignitaries that would be coming for the celebration is seamless at designated airports in the country. Excerpts:
What is your committee doing to ensure that the nation’s airports are in top shape for the celebration, especially in view of world leaders coming for the ceremony?

We have just finished inspection of facilities and we’ve had interviews and discussions with FAAN, NAMA and the Presidential protocol lounge to see their state of readiness and see the amount of job that had been done and to see what is left to be able to give us functional, safe and befitting airports for this purpose.

Did the facility tour you just had put up the picture of which agency and organisation were involved and the outcome of the tour? What were the new challenges that you discovered that you need to take care of between now October 1?

Like you that is very familiar with Lagos airport, we want it to be an international airport indeed, because some of the visitors that will come on commercial flight will come through Lagos and it is important that they have the right impression of what Nigeria is all about. Without any gainsaying, we all know that Lagos is the gateway to Nigeria, so we have to make sure that the cooling system at the airport, the power supply, the security, the water supply to the airport, they’re all functional and they are in good shape. Yes, there are problems, and we know the problems, the committee has representatives from all the parastatals, FAAN, NAMA, NCAA, NIMET, the security apparatus, and the airport commandant of all the airports are members. So we discussed, they came with their demands, what needed to be fixed, where they are, what should be done and we forwarded it to the main committee.

Some amount were voted for and money was made available and was given through the line ministry, which is the Aviation Ministry. And then the Aviation Ministry dispatches this through the respected parastatals that are responsible for these facilities. To deal with the airports, is FAAN, to deal with the NAVAIDS is NAMA, to deal with meteorological equipment, NIMET and there are things to be done at the presidential lounge, because we are expecting two very important guests through the Lagos airport. And I am pleased to inform you that, even the Lagos State Government is partnering with us in this event to see that we get a befitting celebration.

So, how many Heads of State and Government is the committee expecting in the country for the event?
Well, we are expecting nothing less than 50 Heads of State and it is in view of this that we have said Abuja cannot handle it alone, Lagos can not handle it alone, we have gone out to identify other airports that are quite close to Abuja airport. And it is the traditional thing in all other countries that when you are doing this kind of celebration, when you have so many heads of states and presidents and other people coming into the country, they can bring their jets, they will land in Abuja and the airplanes will go into other places and park. Going further from what you asked, what are the areas we looked into? The NAVAIDS, that is the Instrument Landing System,

ILS, and other associated things like the airport lightings, the VOR and so many other things that are associated to making a safe flow of traffic during that time. And I am pleased to inform you that with our last meeting that we had with NAMA, they assured us that there is going to be a seamless flow of traffic in all the airports. Money has been voted and made available for their spare parts, where other things are not available, all the anticipated shortage, like diesel, PMS, there are provisions for that. So people are aware of what to do and what they need to do and what they must do. The aim is to project Nigeria positively. Like I said, I will keep on repeating myself, the airport is the number one point that any visitor will see on arrival.

In Abuja last year, U.S. Secretary of State, Mrs. Hilary Clinton, had to take her aircraft for parking in Accra. The last secretary before her did the same thing, are those things that make them not to park in Abuja gone now?

They are being addressed. We are aware of those two incidents. And their complaint then was that our apron was not properly lit and they are not comfortable with the security level. It is one of the things that my committee looked into and we made sure that it had been done and what we want to make fully ready before the end of the month is to have all these aprons properly lit. How do you do that? You must have enough power supply, and you must have the bulbs and the light fittings functional.

FAAN is on top of that and we, as a committee, are inspecting and we have inspected and we shall inspect again before that date. And this is one of the issues we noticed and we raised. Even in Lagos airport and the presidential lounge, the apron lightings are being improved upon. And Abuja, that is going to be lit because we are taking care of that.

And then the security aspect of it. We have even gone further than that. Aviation security, Customs, Immigration, Police and all the people that will be involved in Nigeria @ 50 for the actual airport job are being trained at the moment. We took them to Zaria and an induction course was given to them lasting two weeks. They were given lectures about protocol, about security, safety and general awareness and how to behave to make sure that Nigeria is projected positively. So in all those areas that we know we are lacking, this is a grand opportunity for us to project this country and we are sure to meet up. And we hope it continues thereafter.

Talking about collaboration, in specific terms, what are those things the Lagos State Government will do or is doing to give the visiting Heads of State a warm welcome?

We are reliably informed that they are going to be part of visitation team at the airport, so there are one or two things they are wiling to shoulder and then they will build it to make sure that the place really has the right ambience and the right status to welcome people, not only to Nigerian but to Lagos State as the gateway.

I don’t know what your committee is doing to ensure that all the security agencies at the international airport work in synergy to ensure seamless passage for the VIPs that would be coming in..

The synergy is there and why I say this is because in this committee of ours, all the military airport commandants are members, aviation security from FAAN are members of our committee. Again, the police, in fact, the Commissioner of Police in charge of anti-terrorism is a member and is one of the lecturers that lectured in Zaria on the induction about security awareness and what you need to do for everybody.

And in each airport, there is what we call airport security committee which is chaired by the airport manager and all the other members on the other security organization that are present at the airports are members. We are talking about the Nigerian Police, SSS and aviation security people.
What is your assessment of the level of job done so far?

Well, I am somebody who think positively. From what I have seen and from the discussion we had with the engineers in charge of the projects from FAAN, because they even took us to their water treatment system and to almost everywhere were they are working on, they gave us all the assurance that they will be ready and they will not let Nigerians down. And I think this is a time where we all know that we need to project our country positively. I think and I believe all hands should be on deck and that the management and staff of FAAN, may need to go up to make sure that they do this right. People like you in the media, by creating the awareness level and helping us, I think we will be able to get there.

How much do you need to inject or has injected into all the agencies and the various organizations in preparation for the anniversary?
I can’t give you the exact amount. But I think for each organization what we did as a sub_committee was to asked them what their needs are. What are the areas that are very important to them? And they did bring it and we looked at it. We have had to date 10 meetings strategising. Thereafter, we passed their requirements to the main committee, which looked at it, studied it, and see what they could do and what they cannot do and then they gave reasons.

Thereafter, approval was giving and this committee sat and agreed with another committee setup by the Ministry of Aviation, which is the line ministry for all these issues and then agreed on the priority items and how to go about them. I am proud to tell you that most of these things are being done by the parastatals through direct purchase or direct labour.

Where they need to purchase, they go straight to the manufacturer and get that done. So the ball is in the court of the parastatals. But unlike other events or other things that have happened earlier, there is very close monitoring of their activities. This is like our second visit and I am assuring you before the event, there is going to be another visit.

To those of you that have been to Abuja airport on the international terminal, I am sure you have seen some visible changes and the rate it is going on, even the expansion of the apron wing. We may not be able to finish all but, at least, what I want Nigerians and every other person to understand is that this event will happen in October, this event, yes, is very important because 50 years is no joke, but at the end of the day, all these infrastructure would be left and would remain here in Nigeria and at our airport. And another thing we are able to get, because we get feedback from the participants of the induction course that we had. It is so useful, they get to know each other, they get to understand each other and that brings me to what you are asking about how much synergy we are able to get among them? It will interest you to know that they ask that such get_together, whereby they all get together and discuss and move forward, we should be able to sustain it, at least once every quarter and bring them together. Here again, I thank the Rector of NCAT for giving us the venue and for hosting this course. It has been wonderful and he has been very cooperative and he gave all the assistance.

I don’t know what the committee is doing to do to ensure smooth movement of the VIPs from Abuja airport to the FCT, considering the perennial traffic that had been the hallmark of the road from the airport to town?

It is one of the issues we have noticed and we are taking it up with the Commander of Federal Road Safety Corp, FRSC, and I think there are some remarkable improvement. I followed the road yesterday, unlike other times, I saw how his men are up and doing and I am sure with this idea that you have raised, we are going to take it up in our committee meeting and then with the Nigeria at 50 main committee, We will take it to them that something must be done. There are other committees other than aviation, we have the protocol, the security, medical, name it. So it is going to be a kind of team work with all the committees to make sure that we get it right.

What will be done in other airports, aside Abuja and Lagos?
We are doing the same thing. One, NAMA is making sure that their NAVAIDS are functional. Two, the airfield lightings; three, the apron lightings; four, security because a Head of State coming to park his airplane in Minna or Ilorin would want to be safe. So we are making sure all that is done. And we divided ourselves into groups and other people have been to all those airports to see what had been done, what needs to be done and what must be done between now and that time. And we are meeting again to ensure that all these things are done. And I am assuring you, reasonable amount of work had been done in those airports.


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