The ministerial order given to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), to relocate all flight operations to the new international terminal of the Lagos airport, will compel foreign airlines that have hitherto refused to relocate, to do so without further delay.
Many international carriers that operate from the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos have been reluctant to relocate to the state-of-the-art international terminal since the facility was unveiled by former President Muhammadu Buhari early last year.
The major factor pointed out by the airlines for not relocating was that the terminal has design flaws and lacks vital structures that will enhance passengers’ experience.
However, last week, the Minister of Aviation, Festus Keyamo gave the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) up to October 1, 2023 to relocate all flight operations to the new international terminal and vacate the old terminal for rehabilitation.
The new terminal features 66 check-in counters, 16 arrival immigration desks, 28 departure immigration desks, eight security screening points, a multi-layer baggage sorting system, five arrival gates, six departure gates, and seven boarding bridges. The facilities at the new international terminal are clear advancement to the old terminal, besides the fact that it has modern-day facilities.
It also offers two food courts, four premium airport lounges, 22 guest rooms and a spa.
The new terminal is expected to boost MMIA’s annual passenger capacity to around 14 million per annum.
But there are defects, which include what is mainly talked about; the lack of enough apron space, which is not wide enough to accommodate widebody aircraft such as Boeing Dreamliner B787, Boeing B777, Boeing B747, Airbus A350 and many others. The terminal has one entrance and there are many things not in the original plan of the building but which are very critical for the functionality of the terminal
In 2018, a consulting company, Arcaid was contracted by the Ministry of Aviation to study the four new international terminals being built by the Chinese at the Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano airports and carry out a progress report. The company reported its findings and identified design problems and absence of critical facilities in some of the terminals.
At the terminal in Lagos, it identified some of the things that were lacking. Some of them were later incorporated, while others were not. There were no land side link and canopy, which is covered link from the new terminal building to the existing terminal building. There was no airside link, which is the covered link from the new terminal to the existing terminal building along apron side. There was no new terminal drop off, which is the lay-by off the existing access road. It is required to easily connect to the new terminal building at the arrival level. There was also no access road, which was the road required to accommodate the increased volume of traffic of the arriving passengers exiting from the terminal.
Arcaid observed in its report that landside link was not part of the scope of the work of the project. It also added that the airside link and access road were outside the scope of the project.
Arcaid then recommended to the Ministry of Aviation that the link was required for seamless smooth operation of the airport, “hence the need for the construction before the completion of the project.”
It also noted that the airside link was essential and needed to be constructed, “and also the new terminal drop off zone needed to be constructed before the completion of the project to avoid traffic congestion and smooth operation of the airport.”
The company also observed that the existing road needed to be expanded before the completion of the project to cater for the increased traffic flow.
The report emphasized that the apron area provided in the scope of the project was inadequate and recommended that ample space and funding should be provided for completion of the required apron.
Arcaid also recommended that the bridge in front of the existing terminal required expansion to accommodate the traffic from the new terminal building and concourse; “therefore, new bridge should be put in place. Some of these recommendations were carried out before the completion of the project but there were some, which were strategic that were not carried out due to limited space or the design could not be changed.”
Reacting to the challenge of inadequate apron space, the Chairman and CEO of Quits Aviation Services Limited, Dr. Sam Iwuajoku, said FAAN should talk to the owners of Dominion and Evergreen private hangers so that they could vacate the space they are located presently so that the apron could be expanded.
“The two facilities if removed would create adequate space for the apron, as the federal government had earlier demolished the Accident Investigation Bureau (now Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB) building for the expansion of the apron, “he said.
Iwuajoku observed that the owners of the hangers cannot be blamed but FAAN should negotiate with them.
“When they were building the terminal, they did not envisage that it would not have enough apron. What they should do is to resettle the owners of the hangars so that they will relocate from the place and explain to them that their relocation is for national interest. Federal government spent over $150 million to build that terminal; it is paying back the loan with interest so it has to maximise profit from the terminal. The two hangars cannot generate up to N20 million for FAAN in a year. FAAN has to admit it made a mistake by building that new terminal there but the solution now is relocating the private hangars and I heard FAAN has given them a space near the Hajj Camp. That needs to be done urgently because Nigeria is growing; there will be increased passenger and aircraft traffic so the apron has to be expanded for manoeuverability of aircraft in the new terminal. FAAN needs to make maximum use of the terminal,” he said.