The world over, when construction is ongoing it is a challenge to get anything else done and when it is airport construction, be it remodelling, rehabilitation or outright construction from the scratch there are a lot of hitches that abound, more so when you are carrying out such works in an active environment where [passengers are still moving in and out.
So the predicament of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) is glaring, as they can only but apologise to Nigerians as they work to improve on the airport structure which is under usage but as bad as the situation is being painted, the airport authority has made some strides and believes that in no distant time Nigerians will hold their head high as they arrive the country’s major gateway.
NFD caught up with the General Manager, Corporate Communications of FAAN, Mr. Yakubu Dati to find out what level these myriads of developments have reached as it is evident that there are some structural changes to the airport, and he explained in no small measure what the agency has been up to.
According to Dati, by year’s end, the country would have had one new, state of the art terminal in Lagos, one of the six currently under construction by the Chinese.
The terminal when complete, will occupy 15 million passengers annually and when combined with the terminal on ground it should process 25 to 30 million passengers.
According to the contractors during a recent visit, the Lagos terminal is approximately 46,000m2 and would have 72 check in counters, 5 baggage collection points,
28 immigration points for arrival, 16 immigration points for departure, 8 security points and 8 passenger boarding bridges.
Dati who gave an insight as to what the terminal will accomplish said, “So much is going on, we have expanded the flagship and it will accommodate many more people, we are working on the new terminal especially in Lagos will be delivered at the end of this year and we are happy at the rate work is progressing they are in the roofing stage as I speak with you and with the completion of this new terminal, we will have over 5 million passenger processing capacity and by the time you combine it to the old terminal because it will be connected, we will be able to process more than 20 million passengers so that in itself is huge.”
In his assessment of what is on ground, he said that the quality of the terminal and the standard would be top notch as all the others being handled by the firm, he explained that there were specifications and that FAAN was making sure that the firm meets these specification stating that they will do no less as they have a reputation to protect.
He said, “The new terminal will be of a better standard because we have all we need and it is an international construction company that is constructing the airport, we also have clear specifications that we monitor from time to time to ensure that they meet up with the standard and I know that companies like that have their reputation on the line and will not play with such specifications and we are confident of that.”
On other areas, the FAAN spokesman also said that the new terminal will be physically challenged friendly as well as have a car park that would handle the congestion problem at the airport and make for a smoother transition.
“In addition we are also building the multi-story carpark which has reached an advanced stage that will accommodate 1,500 cars and will reduce the pressure of parking as it is in Lagos. We are also replicating the same thing in Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt so all that is to open up the frontiers of the growth of aviation here in Nigeria and these terminals will be fitted with modern equipment that will take care critical areas especially the physically challenged. It will match any modern airport anywhere,” he said.
However, terminal construction isn’t the only thing that FAAN is handling now as the airport managers have started installing Air field lighting at airports that do not have already and are restoring them on airports that need restoration.
The FAAN spokesman said that Calabar airport was done and dusted while work is already in advance stages in some other airport, correcting the notion that all the airports did not have AFL.
“Well so far work is ongoing and we have finished airports like Calabar while airports like Enugu, Ibadan are on course and we believe that as soon as the budget is passed that’s when we will reach out to contractors to continue the work and these are very serious projects because they are safety related and the Minister has said emphasis should be placed on projects that have safety connected to them,” Dati said.
“The international airports already have existing airfield lighting as MMIA flights come in and take off at night. Some already have, it’s not as if the airports never had, we are looking at the airports that are adjourning so we are working on those ones that don’t have especially the smaller airports.”
On the benefits of this safety critical component of the aerodrome Dati posited that,”When done, aircraft will fly and land at any time of day or night, right now as we speak the airports that do not have airfield lighting do daylight operations, in other words the stop operating when it is night fall so we believe when its nightfall they will be able to operate and the commercial airlines too will be able to operate so it now makes it more viable for them meaning they can make more flights into those airports in a day.”
“Most times for the night flight you only hear Lagos to Abuja but once other airports are lighting in the other airports are done, they will also be able to connect, instead of rushing to finish all the flights before nightfall and so we believe it would improve the finances of everyone involved, the airlines, the airports and create employment because it means we can now operate 24 hours meaning we will need more hands and all this will add to making aviation truly an enabler to the economy.”
On the security situation and how it may affect night flights Dati was optimistic that it was not a challenge as the airlines agitated for that “The AFL is one of the appeals from the airlines so they can fly at night and I believe the security situation is not as bad as it is. Now if you look at the time of pilgrimages, some of the flights are late in the night by these airlines and people still go ahead but what we are trying to do is open the frontiers so the option is there, it will be a matter of choice whether or not the passenger chooses to fly at night and it will maximise the usage of the airports.”
On the cargo terminal proposed to aid in diversifying the nation’s economy, Dati was optimistic of its success stating that it was needed now more than ever because of the dwindling price of the country’s main export, crude oil.
“Nigeria is very rich in terms of agro-produce especially the perishable produce and there is also a market for it. It is something we are looking forward to as our farmers will be earning in foreign currency for their produce, instead of the case we have where there is a clot in the system during harvest season, where the prices crash and the farmers lose a lot. So with opening up the export angle, it makes it more valuable because now we will be able to move goods out of the country and get value for the goods.”
According to him, the cargo terminal project has to be privately driven with government acting as enabler by providing suitable cargo terminals that can land cargo aircraft while stating that once it kicks off the Nigerian produce will be a hit because it is healthy.
“The project is essentially private sector driven, we as government are here to create the enabling environment and that comes with providing the cargo facilities as they are specialized so cargo planes can come in and it creates room for some refrigerating because some of the goods maybe refrigerated before taken on flights so that in itself creates a new chain of business because the farmers will get people that will do haulage to the airports, they will have another chain that will deal with storage of these facilities so it’s a value chain that will spread money around the chain and it will fasten development.”
“We are also hoping that the Chambers of Commerce of different states will come in and take advantage of the situation and other agencies like the export promotion council and the standard organisation of Nigeria will also be able to come in so we meet up international standards in terms of what we are taking to the international market but I believe that our goods will compete favourably because in the international market there is very few places where you find natural produce from organic sources, most of them are not organic and people are more sensitive about what they eat because of health, our food in Nigeria is organic and I believe when we have the opportunity to compete internationally they will do very well.
With all that FAAN has in its plate, all the agency asks for is a chance to prove that given the opportunity, it will come through for the country in more ways than one and so is calling for understanding in all its projects especially the terminal upgrading.
Dati said, ”We appeal for patience as there is a saying,’ no pain no gain’ and I believe the pain we are going through is temporal and the outcome here will be of great benefit. Worldwide when there is airport construction passengers usually go through inconveniences because we are talking of operations going together with construction so there is bound to be a lot of inconvenience especially in high traffic places like Lagos but once the terminal is operational as well as the multi-story car park, it will clear everywhere. Just beside the airport is a super structure and people will know that a lot of work is going on here.”