Sustaining Facility Upgrades at Airports

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It is expected that soon the new airport terminal at Abuja, Lagos and Kano airports would be put to use as the projects are nearing completion.

In the past two years, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) had striven to meet international standard practices in airport security, facilitation and personnel development in order to see the major airports in the country certified.

These efforts received impetus with the executive order from the federal government to enhance the ease of doing business. Since the adoption of this new policy, there has been a turnaround in security management as well as in attitude to work by the staff of the agency.

Also, in order to ensure that more international airlines come to Nigeria and to overcome the competition from sister countries, FAAN decided to upgrade the major airports in the country to meet the given criteria in order to certify the airports by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Earlier this year before the executive order was introduced, the acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo visited the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) in an unscheduled inspection where he enquired about the preparedness of the Nigerian Immigration Service to issue visa on arrival for foreign investors who wish to do business in Nigeria.

THISDAY investigation has revealed that the airport has started issuing visa on arrival and this has significantly removed the difficulties foreigners hitherto experienced before obtaining Nigeria’s visa.
Also by doing that Nigeria is following the footsteps of Ghana, Rwanda, Kenya and Ethiopia which have been issuing visa to individuals who wish to do business in those countries as they have realised that they have to open up to benefit from international investment which helps to develop any nation.

“The acting President was determined to bring changes in the visa process and he made sure that every huddle was removed for genuine businessmen and women who wished to do business in Nigeria,” a FAAN source told THISDAY.

THISDAY investigation also revealed that the international terminal of the Lagos airport is no more crowded, a development, which the FAAN spokesperson, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu confirmed, noting that the agency has carefully driven away touts and other people who do not have anything to do at the airport.
“If you go to MMIA without boarding pass, on duty card you won’t be allowed to enter the terminal. So there is no more touts at the Lagos and Abuja airports. In fact, FAAN wants to establish a court at these two major airports where touts would be tried immediately they are caught.

“Everything about the two airports has changed. In Lagos we have changed the chillers and we are supporting the chillers with pockets of air conditioners and you could see that a lot of renovation is going on. We are replacing the ceiling boards in the public concourse and we are repainting and relamping the terminal so that when you come in the night everywhere will be well illuminated,” Yakubu said.

She said that the carousels (conveyor belts), which tend to delay the baggage movement are being replaced and by the time the carousels are fully functional, it would take passengers about 10 minutes or less to collect their luggage.
Yakubu added that the executive order of the federal government helped to beef up security at the airports despite the fact that the security points have been reduced for easy facilitation and to ensure that passengers spend less time going through airport security screening.

Besides the ease of doing business, FAAN has improved the airports in order to meet the ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS) for the certification of the aforementioned major airports.
But the question industry observers ask is, will FAAN be able to sustain the standard in order to continue to retain the certificate status and also meet the executive order of the federal government?
THISDAY spoke to the Managing Director of the agency, Saleh Dunoma on Tuesday in Kaduna on how FAAN intends to sustain the present efforts that have significantly improved the airports.

He said: “We went through the process of certification and we have learnt a lot of lessons from it on what we need to do, what we need to put in place. We have also along that line planned on how to sustain it by making adequate provisions to make sure that all the items that were closed, as directed by ICAO, are kept closed and any other item that may be opened as a result of operations is closed.

“So we are going to set aside special funds to make sure that we sustain the certification, to make sure that we train our staff, to make sure that we update our documentations, to make sure that all maintenance programmes are adhered to. So this is the only way we can sustain what we have done.”

On the changes that have taken place at these airports, the FAAN boss said that a lot of changes have taken place “because all the things we thought were critical in terms of our operations have been improved upon and the passengers everyday commend the efforts of the Authority.”

He added: “We have learned that when you allow little, little things to infringe on your operations like simple documentation, including not getting the right phone number could be critical to safety because during emergency and you want to contact somebody to solve the problem but you don’t have the right number, imagine what will happen?”
With the certification of the Lagos airport and subsequently the other major airports in the country and with the introduction of the ease of doing business, Nigeria will soon enjoy the boom of high flight traffic at its airports.