Adeola Akinremi writes that the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria made good its promise to open the revamped General Aviation Terminal this month
Charm is not the word. Not exactly. Comfort is more like it. This simply captures the experience now at the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) in Lagos.
Until Friday, November 23, when the Managing Director of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), George Uriesi made real his promise to open the GAT for service, passengers had groan in pain under a makeshift canopy that served as arrival and departure hall, a total eyesore to the most populous black nation of the world and the acclaimed giant of Africa.
But, last month when the Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah unveiled the new GAT, Mr. Uriesi told Nigerians that the terminal will go fully operational after two weeks. That was to allow the airlines and vendors to set up according to him. And last Friday his words became real.
A statement from his office reads: “The newly commissioned Terminal 1 formerly known as the general aviation Terminal of the Murtala Muhammed Airport has become fully operational with effect from Friday, November, 23, 2012.
The terminal which cost N648m to construct was formerly commissioned on the October, 22, 2012 by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim to ease the discomfort of air travelers using that terminal.
The Terminal is the first to be commissioned among the 11 airports that are contained in the first phase of the airport remodeling project that’s being implemented under President Goodluck Jonathan’s transformation agenda aviation industry.
With the full operation of Terminal 1, it is expected that the entire operational bottleneck associated with travelling through this strategic terminal will be now be over. Prior to the full operation of the terminal, services were provided under canopies which served as temporary lounges while the remodeling lasted.”
When THISDAY visited the airport to confirm what Uriesi said, passengers travelling using Terminal 1 were seen in cheerful mood and wearing pleasant surprises.
Surprisingly, a heavy downpour greeted the opening at about 2 pm when the old make shift tent had giving way to the newly opened and soothing Terminal 1.
An official of ARIK Air said, “I can imagine it. Such a heavy rainfall with all passengers and our operational equipment in the open space would have been an unpleasant afternoon.” He confirmed it happened before. “We have experienced it many times under that canopy and it was surely a bitter experience where passengers were full of anger.”
Beside the rainfall, the traffic of passengers witnessed at the GAT when it opened for business last week was unusual. This, according to FAAN General Manager, Corporate Communications, Mr. Yakubu Dati, is the desire for pleasure and comfort by the passengers.
“What happened to the increase in the traffic of passengers witnessed at the new Terminal is that people are enjoying the facilities. They are hearing the reports and coming down to confirm it. Everyone wants to be okay. Everyone hates discomfort and now that we have provided something in that direction, it is expected to attract more passengers.”
At the Terminal 1, IRS and ARIK Airlines have set up their cabins for passengers’ scrutiny before moving into the flights and security apparatus that were not there last month are now in place to secure the terminal.
A passenger, Hajia Nana Shefiu said: “I am reassured that Nigeria can be better with this new experience. I just think our leaders need courage whether you are a woman or a man. This new Terminal offers hope about everything.”
And Dati would like to reinforce hope. He said, “We are replicating what is going on at the Lagos international airport in 10 other airports in the country for the first phase, and the second phase would be to 12 other airports in the country.
“The idea is that at the end of two years we will have 22 airports that are completely reconstructed. Apart from that, there are also plans to build five new international airports terminals in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt that is brand new totally because we are preparing the sector to be in line with international best practices and world class standard”
He adds: “Aviation is a global business and we live in a global world and whatever we are doing, we must do it to meet the world standard so that when you step down into our tarmac it should not be different from what you see at Heathrow airport in London.
The facilities should be the same because we are dealing with international travellers, so those structures are done to replace aviation where they belong.
According to him some of the airports undergoing remodeling would soon be commissioned. “We hope to commission Benin City, Owerri and Enugu airports before the Christmas, so we have quite a lot of projects that are ongoing at the same time. We may not be able to know when they would be ready, but we would commission them as soon as they are ready”.
“Our expectations are that the facility will boost the fortunes of airliners as we achieve our vision of making our airports safe, secure and comfortable. These terminals will also redeem our image in the committee of Nations and place us as the hub of aviation in Africa, where we rightly belong,” he said.
The new occupies a total floor area of about 4000 square metres, has a full complement of facilities including conveyor belts, shops, x-ray screening machines, a modern VIP lounge, restaurants, toilets and computerized check-in counters. It can accommodate over 2000 passengers during peak periods. That in itself is a step forward.