After just 11 months of demolishing the former structure which was no less than a chicken shed, Federal Government erected a world class airport terminal at the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) and has said it was a speck of greater things to come.
The GAT which was commissioned a forthnight ago by Secretary of Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, already boasts of increased passenger capacity, expanded space for businesses and most incredible is the cost of the terminal which is N648million compared to the N35 billion, Murtala Muhammed Airport terminal 2 (MMA)
Mananging director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mr. George Uriesi who spoke on government’s drive to improve the airports after over 30 years and the airport capacity of the new airport said:
“As we commission the first terminal building constructed by the Federal Government for more than 30 years at this time in October last year, we had a very old dilapidated building standing where we are now and we began the destruction of that building on the 5th of November 2011 which is about 11 months ago now, we began to destroy the buildings that were here, a number of buildings.”
On the increased capacity, he said,” I want you to know that in 2011 we had 4.1 million domestic passengers in Murtala Muhammed airport of which 1.8 million use the old general aviation terminal, the capacity of that terminal was for 400,000 passengers per annum but was processing 1.8 million passengers, today I am pleased to say that this new facility can handle 1500 departing passengers at peak hours and can handle 12 domestic flight at peak hour.”
“With this facility which is built in a total of eleven months at a total cost of N648million, N648million is what some people use to build their houses in this country but this facility as they say cost us N648million. You will remember that since 1999, more than N250billion have been budgeted for this industry and we just have a total intervention fund of N19billion and I am very happy that today we are able to showcase something of value to show that the resources of the Federal Government has been put into good use, this the first amongst very many to come.”
He went on to state that the terminal although commissioned, will not start its operations immediately as they were looking at November but this was scuttled as some airline operators told the FAAN management that they could not wait.
As it stands now, the airport from the day of commissioning has started taking arrivals and this is while works are still on.
Uriesi further explained that so many improvements are still underway despite the present level that the GAT has attained including building of a multi storey carpark where the original used to be and create other business prospects from the terminal.
The FAAN boss who spoke with our correspondent through his General Manager, Corporate Communication, Yakubu Dati said that the carpark was important and that the authority must see that through because as the capacity of the terminal increases so does the vehicular movement.
Secretary to Federal Government, Senator Pius Ayim, who commissioned the project was highly estatic on what he saw as he was taken round and showed the terminal.
There he pledged that government will continue to support the industry and grow it to level higher than what it met.
He said,“The aviation industry is operated under safe international standard and so we cannot afford to stay behind, let me therefore use this opportunity to commend the honourable minister of aviation Oduah for her unrelenting effort improving our airports as well as our airspace to international standard.”
“I am pleased to reiterate, at this juncture, that this administration’s programme in the aviation sector is not limited to the remodelling of the airports and the reconstruction of new ones but also covers all aspects of the industry including acquisition and distribution of modern equipment that will ensure safety in the Nigerian airspace, adequate weather reporting, comfort and security of passengers as well as the safety of our aircraft.”
“It also entails the reorganisation of the aviation parastatals including reorientation, training and retraining of staff in the industry to enable adapt to the new trend in the sector..”
Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah who spoke to the media explained that her team was able to complete the terminal at such a low cost despite all the critisms that were trailing the remodelling process due to trheir prudence.
She said, “We are very prudent, we are very nationalistic and we got involved, we made sure that Nigerians got what they rightly deserve and that is a comfortable world class domestic terminal and I believe that is what we have given to Nigerians today.”
“From now till January, we are going to open maybe about seven to eight new terminals that we are going to unveil, we are going to be in Yola, we are going to commission Yola, from Yola we go to Benin from Benin we go to Kano so it is a train and we are going to ride it .”
On Bi-Courtney’s ownership claim of the terminal as part of the concession agreement , she said it was a free country but the GAT did not belong to any one person but to Nigerians.
“This airport belongs to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, by extension the people of Nigeria and government on that note ensure that you have the airports that you have today, many of us use this airport before it was an eyesaw and if this airport had rightly belong to as you call him, your neighbour, he would not have allowed the airport to have gone to that decay stage where we met it but as far as we are concerned, the airport doesn’t belong to him and nobody can take a nation to ransom, nobody can hold all of us and any of us to ransom, we must be progressive, we must let this country grow, we must do that that benefit our people”
Other industry stakeholders have also applauded the Federal Government for its giant strives in commissioning the newly constructed General Aviation Terminal (GAT), Lagos as well as transforming the airports to become world class airports.
Managing Director Belujane Konzult, Mr. Chris Aligbe said that the commissioning of the newly constructed GAT terminal show that there is hope for the aviation industry.
Mr. Aligbe pointed out that this kind of restructuring and remodelling of our airports had never happened before stressing that it was a start up of a new era that would place the Nigerian aviation industry amongst countries that have world class airports as well as terminal buildings.
He said”Yes, it is a flag off of a new era as far as I am concerned because it has never happened before and so we have somebody who have taken it up to see that the industry changes for the better and this is a flag off of it and I that it is something that gladden all of us particularly those of us who are not as young as you are, who are on our way out, so we are happy that we are seeing it happen in our own time. The terminal is of standard with any other domestic airport globally”
He went on,”“It is something that should cause acidic critics of the transformation a rethink, it should cause them a soul searching rethink to know whether when they were going on the line of that acidid criticism, whether they were really right and for those who made a positive critics of what was going on, it is something that should be heart warming to them that their positive critics has actually brought up the best that we ever had in the domestic sector of our aviation industry” Also speaking, Managing Director of Arik Airline, Mr. Chris Ndulue noted that the commissioning of GAT was the beginning of good things to come in the aviation industry adding that when other airport are fully completed and commissioned that there would be a major turn around in the aviation industry.
“Well it is a good thing that the terminal has been completed and commissioned today, and this something that has taken a lot of time to come, so that is why we salute the courage of the Aviation Minister and the Federal Government of Nigeria for been able to achieve this, and you can see that this is a modern terminal by all standard because it is spacious enough and it is going to impact heavily on the services delivered by the airlines and on the comfort that the passengers enjoy while travelling.”
“ So this is a very good day for us as well as the ministry of aviation and Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), we are very happy about this and we want to also commend the Federal Government, the President and the Minister for achieving this and everybody who has been part of this, it is quite commendable”