After several years of lamentation by passengers about the decay of facilities, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria has started taking steps to rejuvenate airport infrastructure. With the opening of new terminals in Abuja and Port Harcourt, the agency is poised to modernise airports in the country, writes Chinedu Eze
On January 6, 2019, the new terminal at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja was officially opened for the procession of travellers. The use of the facility was kicked off by the West Africa major operator, Asky Airlines. After many years of travelling through the limited space offered to international passengers at the existing terminal, which was divided to also offer space to domestic travellers, passengers were elated when the new terminal was opened.
The new terminal boasts of state-of-the-art facilities with large flight information display system, conveniences, large passenger waiting lobby with seats and electric pots for those who wish to charge their phones. It is different from the old terminal where hitherto passengers on international trips were literally squeezed to their aircraft.
FAAN has taken bold steps to revamp even the existing terminal at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos and currently the agency is rebuilding the obsolete avio bridges to transform them to new.
At the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, foreign carriers, Air France, Lufthansa and Cronos Airlines moved to the new international terminal unveiled last October by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The President also unveiled the new Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport terminal last December and Asky Airlines successfully operated inaugural flight from the new facility. Thereafter, Ethiopia Airlines commenced its daily flight operations from the terminal last month.
The General Manager, Corporate Affairs, FAAN, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu said the new facility occupies approximately 56,000sqm and it is built for 14 million passengers per annum with 66 check-in counters, five baggage collection carousels, 16 Immigration desk at arrival and 28 immigration desk at departure.
The new terminal also has eight security screening points, eight passenger boarding bridges plus remote boarding and arrival but presently there are only two avio bridges and two food courts. It also has four premium lounges, 22 guest rooms and spa in addition to 16 airline ticketing offices.
There is Visa-on-Arrival and port health facility as well as praying area; more than 3,000sqm of duty free space and more than 5,000sqm of lettable utility space.
Port Harcourt Airport
Port Harcourt International Airport became operational in 1979. The old terminal has been servicing the oil rich Niger Delta region that comprises Rivers State, Bayelsa state, Delta state, Cross Rivers and Akwa Ibom. Other South East states, like Abia, Imo are also benefiting from the services of this airport.
Yakubu said few years ago the passenger traffic had outgrown the old terminal, which comprised both international and local operations, hence the need for expansion.
“The federal government of Nigeria gave approval to FAAN for the construction of a brand new terminal, the foundation for the new terminal was laid on March 1, 2014, it was constructed over a period of four years by the Chinese Construction Company.
“The brand new terminal was commissioned on 25th of October 2018, by His Excellency the Executive President of Nigeria, President Mohammadu Buhari. The terminal became fully operational on Friday 25th of January 2018,” she said.
According to the FAAN spokesman, movement of agencies and installation of technical facilities and other sundry issues were concluded and the first flight operation took off on Friday January 24, 2019, at about 1:00 PM Nigerian time with the arrival of Cronos airline from Accra Ghana. This was followed by Lufthansa from Frankfurt Germany and Air France from Paris France, at about 7:00 pm.
“A passenger from Accra, Ghana created a funny scenario when Cronos arrived from the West African country and she refused to disembark from the aircraft, saying this was not Nigeria; that they landed at a wrong airport; not until she was prevailed upon by the crew, that this was Port Harcourt, Nigeria that she was convinced. Such is the beautiful ambience this terminal creates that passengers mistook it as a foreign country,” Yakubu told THISDAY.
THISDAY gathered that the new terminal at the Port Harcourt airport is approximately 27,000sqm and it was built for five million passengers per annum capacity with 24 check-in counters, 12 currently installed, three baggage collection carousels, one currently installed, 16 Immigration desk at arrival, eight passport control desk at departure, four passenger boarding bridges, plus remote boarding and arrival; however, only one is currently installed and two food courts. There are also four premium lounges and spa; airline ticketing offices and duty free space and also lettable utility space.
The Chinese Terminals
In 2012 the federal government signed deal with Chinese Exim bank to provide credit facility of $500 million for the construction of the international terminals in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt, while FAAN directly funded the building of international terminal at the Akanu Ibiam Airport, Enugu. The Nigerian government paid counterpart fund of $100 million. But with delay in the completion of the projects and the fact that more facilities would be added to the terminals, the projects are expected to cost more.
In addition to the new facilities that would be added to the Abuja new terminal, the Managing Director of FAAN, Saleh Dunoma also explained that the present tower at the Lagos airport cannot see the new terminal, so there was need for another tower, but the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) had provided mobile tower so that controllers would be able to capture every part of the airport.
“Because of the massive construction going on at the Lagos airport, the present tower cannot see one side of the terminal building. To solve this problem, NAMA has provided another mobile tower to look at the other side of the building,” he said.
As part of the effort to provide and improve on critical infrastructure at the nation’s airports, FAAN has embarked on the construction of the second runway at the Abuja airport. Growing aircraft traffic and increasing flight destinations in the federal capital territory has made this imperative and FAAN said it was poised to provide the facility. It also plans to build new tower and fire service at the Abuja airport.
“In the new infrastructural development that is coming; there will be additional runway for Abuja airport and other infrastructure, which will include a new fire station and a new control tower that will be strategically located to cover the airport, as required by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
“This means that the control tower that would be built should be able to see all the terminal buildings and see the four ends of the runways. Each runway has two ends, the control tower should be able to see as the aircraft will land and take off on both sides of the runway. It should be able to see what is happening on the aprons of the terminal buildings. So we need to choose another location to strategically provide that.
“The fire station’s major requirement is that they should be strategically located. If there is any incident anywhere in the airport, in the shortest distance they can reach there. The existing control tower was built for one runway. The next one that would be built would cover the two runways and all sides of the airport. So we are incorporating it in the design of the new runway so that these two facilities will be strategically located,” Dunoma said.
The FAAN Managing Director said the new runway would be built as quickly as possible because of the urgency to have another runway at the airport.
“We want to do it as quickly as possible but we don’t have time line because right now we are doing consultancy. It is when the consultants finish their design and give us the entire working drawings and all the details and then the consultant now will come up with time line. They can tell that this project can be completed either in 24 months or less. But it is our belief that it will not exceed 24 months,” Dunoma also said.
He said that these projects are necessary because there is growing passenger traffic, which makes it imperative that airport facilities should be expanded and modernised to meet the needs of the passengers for easy facilitation.
Also the International Air Transport Association (IATA) had projected massive passenger growth in Africa and expressed the fear that African states might not be able to urgently build new airports and runways to meet the needs of the projected passenger increase in the region.
Taking a cue from IATA warning and working in partnership with the Air Port Council International (ACI) Africa, FAAN had engaged in massive airport infrastructure renewal and it is projected that in the in few years all major airports in the country would have expanded airport facilities.
Dunoma noted, “Passenger movement will continue to increase and this is even buttressed by ICAO (the International Civil Aviation Organisation) and IATA projections.
“It is predicted that in developing countries passenger movement would double by 2030. In Africa we believe that it will more than double for the simple reason that we have not developed other infrastructure like the train and the road infrastructure is not there. So a lot of people are going to depend on air travel because it is easier and faster.
“So we believe that in Africa passenger movement will be more than double by 2030. So that is why we are strategically developing the airport infrastructure in order to meet up with the demand that is coming. I know the industry is very sensitive, some time there is a drop but within a short period of time you will see that it will go up again. But if you look at the overall trend, passenger movement and aircraft movement are on the increase always.”
FAAN has provided succour to air travellers with the completion of the new airport terminals. This has made passenger facilitation easy and has also given Nigerians hope that airport development is not only taking place in other parts of Africa; that FAAN is determined to meet the need of air travellers. Industry observers have variously noted that so much positive changes have taken place under Dunoma.