The biggest thumb down of Nigeriaâ€™s airports is the toilets. In fact, crew members of foreign airlines that operate to Nigeria do not use the toilets; so are many foreigners who travel to Nigeria. They prefer to hold in the urine or stool for longer periods of time and go to their hotels to relieve themselves.
This is because the bad story about Nigeriaâ€™s airport toilets has been circulated to the world by regular travellers to the country. But the dirtiest of all the toilets are located at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu. When THISDAY visited the airport last week, the acrid and pungent smell wafting from the toilets confirmed the complaints of the travellers to that airport that it would unequivocally win the award as the dirtiest airport in Nigeria.
In rating airports, one of the key factors that are considered is the cleanliness of the toilets. In many airports of the world, cleaners who run on shifts continuously clean the toilets, as passengers surge in to relief and clean themselves.
THISDAY recently studied the activities of toilet attendants at different Nigeriaâ€™s airports in Lagos, Abuja, Enugu and Ilorin. At the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) of the Lagos airport, an attendant targets the passengers coming in to use the toilets. As a traveller enters the toilet, the attendant is poised, holding toilet roll in the hand and waits for the traveller to finish using the toilet. As the traveler comes out of the toilet to the hand wash stand, the attendant unrolls the toilet roll and hands over to the traveller about 60 centimeter of toilet roll, after he has washed his hands. As he is cleaning his hands, the attendant will obsequiously clean his shoes with toilet roll. All these are to make the man drop some money.
Careful observation reveals that most of the attendants are not really committed to their jobs; workers of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) explained why it is so to THISDAY.
On why Enugu airport may be the dirtiest in the country, a FAAN official told THISDAY that the airport management earmarks and pays a meagre N106, 000 for the cleaning of the airport for one month. This is the money that is paid to the person who recruits those that clean the airport.
â€œThe toilets are really dirty and this is because we donâ€™t have cleaners, coupled with the way the terminal was built. We donâ€™t have dedicated cleaners and this is because they have not given the airport any attention. If you invite a cleaner now and give him the job they will pay him peanuts. If you want effective cleaning of the toilets, they should give them out as contract. It is better. The airport is dirty because it is FAAN that is arranging the cleaning.
â€œCan you imagine that the cleaners of the airport are paid N106, 000? They should take the airport seriously. The proper thing is to engage a professional as it was done in other airports or they should earmark enough money to pay the cleaners doing it for FAAN,â€ the official said.
THISDAY also spoke with some senior FAAN officials in Lagos who proffered solution to the intractable problem of inefficient management of airport toilets.
One of them suggested that the contracts on the cleanliness of the airports, including that of Lagos, Abuja and other major airports in the country should be reviewed.
â€œSo many factors are involved. Are the cleaners paid as at when due. For them to provide standard service, FAAN has to sign service level agreement with stakeholders, which means there is standard they cannot go below. The contractor should be paid optimally what is commensurate with the standard,â€ the official said.
He decried the prevalent situation whereby money generated by FAAN is diverted to take care of other issues rather than being used to maintain and manage the airports. According to him, the Ministry dictates everything that happens in FAAN and how monies generated must be used. It is this interference, he said, that has dogged the activities of the agency and that is why FAAN cannot carry out some of its responsibilities.
â€œThe International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) said all monies generated from the airports should be ploughed back to maintain and manage the airports. But in our own case, all money generated is taken away by politicians. What we spend outside is more than what we spend on the maintenance of the airports. We must have to say the truth. If the Minister says, go and pay money elsewhere it will be done because the Managing Director will not like to lose his job. This is the major problem that we have,â€ the official said.
According to him, it is not concession of the airports that will solve FAANâ€™s problem because the concession will not be transparently done and done with sincerity of purpose; what FAAN needs, he said, is autonomy; â€œthe autonomy that will stop these interferences.â€
Anyone who travels to Enugu and visits the toilets will know that they are eye-sore. Urgent action should be taken to make them clean. Although it has been dubbed the worst but all other airports toilets need significant improvement so that Nigeria will no more be at the lowest rung of the ladder in airport cleanliness.