Recently the federal government issued executive orders on ease of doing business in Nigeria. This was aimed at removing obstacles that tend to prolong the process of doing business in Nigeria. Since its introduction few weeks ago, there have been efforts by government agencies to implement the new policy.
THISDAY visits to the international wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos during the week, revealed that the desks for physical search of passengers’ luggage had been removed. Also, checks revealed that several other changes have taken place recently at the airport.
Industry security experts, travellers and other airport users had been expressing concern about the physical search desks, which many security operatives (from other agencies besides the officials of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAA) allegedly use to extort money from passengers. The attitude of these officials, passengers negates the main objective of instituting the desks. But the executive order has finally eliminated the notorious tables.
During a visit to the airport terminal at the peak hours of activities on Tuesday evening, it was discernible that the literally suffocating crowding had eased. The absence of screening desks seems to have created more space at the check-in hall and there was no milling of people.
THISDAY also noticed that the x-ray machine at the entrance of the airport terminal has been put to serious use. In the past as passengers pass their luggage, the usual complacent aviation security (AVSEC) staff might be looking at other places rather than the monitor or be chatting with his colleague, which might prompt one to ask, what is the objective of installing the screening machine at the entrance of the terminals? But all these seem to have changed.
THISDAY spoke to some passengers who commended the FAAN for improving operations at the terminal. However, one of the passengers told THISDAY that her sibling was not allowed into the terminal to help her with her luggage. She alleged that her sibling was rough handled by security operatives at the gate.
Two weeks ago, THISDAY noticed similar changes at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja. Passengers who fly Dana Air, Arik and Air Peace, whose offices are located at terminal B needed not go to terminal D to board their flight because a new boarding gate had been opened at the ground floor of the airport,. This makes for easy facilitation.
After the inspection of activities at the international terminal of Lagos airport, THISDAY spoke to the acting General Manager, Corporate Communication of FAAN, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, who explained that in fulfilling the new policy on ease of doing business, the agency wants to give passengers better experience at the airports and also to facilitate passenger movement process. She explained why the luggage screening desks were removed:
“We want to ensure that our passengers that come and the ones that are leaving the country don’t have to go through unnecessary checks so we want seamless transition for our passengers. We want them to have good experience and good facilitation. This is because when you want somebody to go from one table to another it is a bit frustrating but to enhance the ease of doing business we have been able to dismantle these several check points to only one point.
“So as soon as you come into our terminal like the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, you pass through the screening machine. At the screening machine before the executive order it was only AVSEC officials that were there but now we have the plant quarantine, we have the NDLEA and others, checking every luggage that comes in. There are several screening monitors now. Every agency has a monitor to him or herself so every official knows what his office wants to find. Everybody knows what he wants to see. So we have several monitors being manned by several agencies now.”
However, she also explained that this has not compromised security in any way because the new system has not eliminated further checks, noting that whenever there are further checks such checks would be carried out.
“For example, if any particular agency suspects any luggage of having any prohibited goods they would put the luggage aside for further checks. So having one screening point has not stopped further checks on luggage. As much as FAAN is willing to obey the executive order, we cannot compromise security. Even the executive order allows us to be thorough in the area of security so we cannot compromise it. So when there is need for further checks it is carried out on the selected luggage,” she explained.
Yakubu said that travellers have embraced the new changes and are commending the federal government and FAAN, as passengers who spoke to THISDAY expressed the hope that the new trend would continue and the agency would continue to improve on it.
“We are already getting positive responses now. If you go to our terminals now you will perceive this ambience and friendliness that will make the passenger enjoy his stay while being facilitated to travel. That overcrowding at MMIA you used to know is no longer there. The collapsing and dismantling of several desks have eliminated people milling around our terminals. AVSEC has also intensified its checks on those entering the check-in hall to ensure that those who enter the terminal are those who want to travel. This has been able to effectively get rid of touts and touting,” she said.
She also said that the FAAN has improved facilities at the Lagos and Abuja airports, from rehabilitating the cooling system, which passengers acknowledged functions better now, to adding two lifts to ease passengers’ movement.
“We have worked on our cooling system. Immediately you go into the terminal you feel the cooling system; that it is working effectively. We have been able to replace our signage. We have better ones now. We also have improved flight information display system (FIDS) where people monitor the progress of their flights. We are doing complete renovation of the toilets at the airports. We are painting our terminals too and we have also improved on our cleaning. We have worked on our escalators, we are working on our lifts and we are also working on sitting arrangements. We have gotten new chairs so that passengers can sit in comfort and enjoy their waiting period before they board their flights,” Yakubu said.