In what can be described as the most thorough tour by any Minister of Aviation in the last 10 years, Minister of Transport, Hon Rotimi Amaechi and his Minister of State, Aviation counterpart, Senator Hadi Sirika embarked on a fact finding query at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos (MMIA) after they had done same at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja (NAIA).
Both Ministers with their entourage arrived first at the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) headquarters and after a short speech by the agency’s managing director, Engineer Saleh Dunoma, Amaechi fired the warning salvo.
When Dunoma talked about renovations and the inconveniences to passengers due to what was going on, Amaechi warned the agency not to compromise safety in whatever they do, stating that safety was the paramount thing.
Then came the embarrassment as he looked around and in a characteristic manner told the managing director that where FAAN currently occupying was not fit to be the headquarters of the agency, he argued that for the authority’s financial clout the current shack they occupy was an anomaly, especially when those they have given accommodation have built edifices around the airport.
He immediately directed that when almost all the capital projects are done with, that the next thing that Dunoma should look into was building a befitting headquarters for FAAN.
Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has categorically given the Federal Airports Authority (FAAN) a directive to get a befitting headquarters for itself stating that with all the money it makes, it can do better than its current state.
Amaechi the agency should meet with the Federal Government and they can work out modalities to give FAAN a befitting headquarters.
With that categorical directive, all was now set for the familiarisation tour, as the group followed their itinerary and the first stop was the General Aviation Terminal (GAT)
At the GAT, the Minister uncharacteristically did not allow himself to be led by others but started going straight for areas like a bloodhound sniffing a prey. He went around the terminal and moved into the toilets after inspecting the terminal building structure only to come out smiling. He made a remark or two about the freshness of the paint in some part of the GAT alluding to the fact that they did so because they knew he was coming.
However, Minister of State for Aviation. Sirika intervened remarking that the Maritime sector also knew the Ministers were coming and they were still caught pants down, implying that painting was no infraction and was also good for aesthetics.
NEW CHINESE TERMINAL
From the GAT, the entire entourage moved in a convoy to the construction site of the new wing of the MMIA being built by the Chinese. The ministerial team was told that the terminal would be completed by this 2016. The contractor who had blueprints of all the six terminals it is constructing in Nigeria gave a breakdown of what they hoped to achieve at the end of the project.
According to him, the new terminal will occupy 15 million passengers annually and when combined with the terminal on ground it should process 25 to 30 million passengers.
He said that the terminal was approximately 46,000m2 and would have 72 check in counters, 5 baggage collection points28 immigration points for arrival, 16 immigration points for departure, 8 security points and 8 passenger boarding bridges.
He also explained the NAIA stating it was larger than the Lagos airport with 56000m2 and a capacity to also process 15million passengers with other features similar to that of Lagos.
He said that the Port Harcourt, Kano, Enugu and Bayelsa were smaller structures with 7million annual passenger processing, 24 check-in counters, three baggage collection and 12 immigration points at arrival and 10 at departure.
UNDERGROUND CAR PARK
The team then defied the rancid stench at the underground car park mucked with mud and many dead rodents which has been shut down for over 10 years, to inspect the areas checking the leakages from the pipes and asking questions of the unpleasantness that was there. The team which had earlier inspected the main terminal was told that the pipes leaking were from there and then Amaechi asked what it would cost the nation to repair the chillers.
He was given a figure of N900million and after careful consideration, the Minister said, subject to funds, since that was not readily available that government would make N500million available and that work should start and between January and February of 2017, government should balance it up but that the chillers needed to be repaired.
After that there was an expansive tour to the perimeter fencing, through miles of land owned by the authority, due to wild animals no part of the entourage came out but they did reserve their comments on it till they briefed the press.
NAMA TRACON SITE
The Ministers and the team visited the Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria (TRACON) where, managing director, Ibrahim Abdulsallam took time to explain to them how the facility was used to track every aircraft flying within the Nigerian airspace and some beyond.
Before then, the Team had visited the Control Tower, and the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) where explanations were given to them on the workings there.
In between, the team also visited the FAAN power project where they learnt about the capacity of the authority in Lagos to generate 3.88 megawatts of electricity and were told that although Abuja and Kano do not have yet, it will be part of the upgrade as the new terminals I those places are coming online.
It was during the Press briefing where questions were asked that the Ministers gave their verdict, first of all Amaechi who spoke for them both said that they were far more impressed with what they saw at the aviation industry by far of the rot they witnessed in the maritime sector.
He said that a lot of work was going on in the aviation industry and that safety was paramount and that government would do its utmost to complete all outstanding projects, subject to funds as he reminded that the country was going through a trying time as of right now.
On the chillers, Amaechi said that they would dismantle all the air conditioners at the international airport, so that it would be made a priority for the repair and overhaul of the chillers.
He said,” We will remove all of them so that we can suffer it together. When we do so we will make it a priority to repair the Chillers and get it working within 6 to 7 months. “
He also commended NAMA over the TRACON which he said is not just a tracking facility but also a security of the country, He said a lot of work has gone into providing safety in the air transport sub sector and since there were no bus stops I the air a lot has to go into safety of the airspace,
When asked about the tour of the perimeter fence and the porousness of security around the area, especially the Sasha axis, he said it would take time to develop the entire MMIA as the vast array of land could not be developed at once.