IN May 2017, the federal government of Nigeria issued an executive orders on ease of doing business in Nigeria aimed at removing unnecessary impediments that tend to hinder the process of doing business in Nigeria. Since its introduction many months ago, there have been efforts by government agencies to implement the new policy.
One of the key components of achieving business ease to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is access to a country through its international gateway meaning that the aviation industry and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) in particular has a pivotal role to play in achieving this ease.
The programme, targeted at ensuring that government agencies deliver services to the general public in a timely, honest and efficient manner, also aims at reducing to the barest minimum; bureaucratic bottlenecks in government processes and procedures as well as entrench passenger facilitation.
In July 2017, the Ease of Doing Business programme was fully launched with the major objective of ensuring that quality services are delivered at the airports across Nigeria in a timely and efficient manner, this launch has propelled a major paradigm shift in processes and procedures since the programme was launched.
The pillars of the order states: “There shall be no touting whatsoever by official or unofficial persons at any port in Nigeria. On duty staff shall be properly identified by uniform and official cards. Off duty staff shall stay away from the ports except with the express approval of the agency head. The FAAN Aviation Security (AVSEC) and Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) Security shall enforce this order.”
“All non-official staff shall be removed from the secured areas of airports. No official of FAAN, Immigration, security agency or Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) or any other agency is to meet any non-designated dignitary at any secure areas of the airport. The official approved list of dignitaries that have been pre-approved to be received by protocol officers shall be made available to AVSEC and other relevant agencies ahead of their arrival at the airport.”
“Any official caught soliciting or receiving bribes from passengers or other port users shall be subject to immediate removal from post and disciplinary as well as criminal proceedings in line with extant laws and regulations
In the areas of facilitation, comfortability, security FAAN co-ordinated the action plan bringing together security agencies, immigration services, customs services and all other relevant agencies that operate at the airport together to give passengers ease of passage.”
And the airport authority is working to ensure it meets all the stress points for better airport experience.
When saddled with the responsibility of spearheading and midwifing the EODB at the nation’s gateway, there were initial challenges but the airport authority scaled the hurdle and has been able to get agencies at the airport to synergize while still respecting their jurisdiction.
Director of Airport Operations, FAAN, Captain Rabiu Yadudu who spoke to Nigerianflightdeck.com on how the Authority was able to get agencies working together said:
“We did it the simplest way possible, we formed a committee comprising all the security agencies operating at the airport and with FAAN. We reviewed our activities and looked at areas where we collaborate and this has worked, so the result and procedure of what we did at the MMIA Lagos which is the pioneer airport will be replicated in other airports. The bottom line of all these is to provide safety, security, comfort and seamless facilitation of our airport users.”
On the initial challenges of getting the agencies working together Captain Yadudu said,”There were challenges regarding security agencies over jurisdiction, it happened at the initial stage and we considered it a teething challenge but not fundermental. In the long run, we all found a common ground, a balance and all the agencies understood that what was being proposed was for the greater good and everyone is working towards one purpose, working towards safety of our passengers and our airports.”
On the benefits accrued from the Ease Of Doing Business, the DAO was precise and straight forward,”Efficiency. If you want to manage how you spend your time at the airport. The EODB helps the agency save money and it would enable us have prudent use of our resources. It will enable us know how to react to customers and stakeholders and give us a better understanding of how to serve them better.”
For facilitation at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) for instance, space for expansion was granted the Nigeria immigration services which has increased its visa issuing centres in Lagos to two.
This is aimed at reducing processing time for travellers and to enhance overall passengers facilitation.
The Immigration services has also improved on the immigration counters at the same airport from its initial three to eight all this to facilitate foreigners’ movement into the country and abolish the usual man hour loss due to immigration processes.
Now visas are now issued to foreigners on arrival at both E and D wings of the airport from its initial D wing while no fewer than 20,000 visas have been issued at the airport since the policy came on stream in June.
Just a few days ago we reported that immigration officers on duty must now have a desk tag so passengers know exactly who they are dealing with as well as provide improved communication with travellers at the command.
The NIS also believes that with this move, it would be easier for passengers to properly identify any officer who requests for bribe from them and take the necessary step to report such officer to superior officers.
The source said: “Immigration boss ordered all the officers to tag their counters to check corruption in the system and also key into the ease of doing business policy of the federal government.
Mr. Anya Duru, a passenger at the MMIA who spoke to Nigerianflightdeck.com on this issue said, “Personally, I would say it is a good development as it will check against low-level corruption among officers and also ease passenger facilitation.”
“An officer from a security agency who is on duty must at all times wear a name tag to be fully identified, that way passengers dealing with any agency operational at the airport would know for certain he or she was dealing with a bona-fide staff of the agency in question and not some nameless uniform.”
“Most times travellers fall to exploitation at this and many other airports but with this identification thing. Officers will think twice before they try to exploit but also the people in charge should have somewhere we can report these incidents so something can be done. There are laws in the country, implementation of those laws must be done,” he said.
Speaking on comfortability of passengers and guests at the nations airports General Manager, Corporate Communication of FAAN, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, explained that in fulfilling the new policy on ease of doing business, the agency wants to give passengers better experience at the airports and in addition to facilitating passenger movement process.
She stated that FAAN has already started changing the general ambience around the airport and completely wipe out the frustrating process passengers have to face.
“Last year, when the Abuja Airport runway was undergoing rehabilitation, FAAN took the opportunity to rehabilitate the airports lounges to provide an ambience that can only be described as heavenly. And if you have not been to the General AviationTerminal (GAT) in Lagos it has undergone tremendous changes. Before the Yuletide, we remodelled the GAT removed the old furniture, replaced them with new better furniture which I turn improved the entire ambience.”
” We are repeating same at the passenger areas, but the lounges for the paying customers are getting more Televisions and the services too are improved as you know comfort is one of our core values.”
On the convenience facilities around the airport, Mrs Yakubu said that the Authority was removing and replacing them totally as well as creating convenience facilities for physically challenged.
She also said that the chillers at the airport has a role to play for the toilets to work without oozing out into the terminal and because of that FAAN has entered into an agreement with Julius Berger Limited to work on the chillers.
Mrs. Yakubu said,” As explained to me in lay terms the chillers have something to do with the extraction of smells from the terminal and once that is up and running it will aid the general terminal.
In the area of security, FAAN states that it deployed more Close Circuit Television (CCTV) facilities at her airports, to ensure wider coverage and consequently improve greatly on security operations at the airports.
Also, three (3) new baggage scanners have been delivered and installed in Lagos, to replace manual searches and checking of luggage.
Most recently, the airport authority had increased the number of patrol vehicles at the MMIA to deter poaching or runway incursion, adding 10 patrol vehicles to the already existing.
Captain Yadudu who also spoke on security stated that it was one of the invisible impacts of the EODB,
“Most of the things we are doing are not things you can visibly see or quantify but they are quite important. As it is now, we are trying to improve security, we are fencing our airports and adding more surveillance, putting up close circuit television (CCTV) all over and we are gathering and sharing information. We are doing the fencing of airports not everyone will see that and then there is massive training of staff for everyone who has access to the airport, all this is to entrench safety.”
Yadudu also talked about how FAAN is working towards bettering itself and measuring its successes as it goes on.
Captain Yadudu who spoke on the benefits of the executive order said,” Efficiency. If you want to manage how you spend your time at the airport, the order will help out. it would help the agency save money and it would enable us (FAAN) have prudent use of our resources. It will enable us know how to react to customers and stakeholders and give us a better understanding of how to serve them better.”
He further said that as part of efforts to provide passenger a satisfactory experience at the nation’s airports, FAAN has subscribed to an Airport Council International ( ACI) Program on Airport Service Quality that would aid the agency improve on service.
He said,”FAAN has also subscribed to and has paid for an ACI Programme, the Airport Service Quality Program(ASP) which will help the agency measure our passengers reactions to all levels of our operations.”
“This program is all about gathering data from the incoming and outgoing passengers on all aspects of our operations to help us improve our services through analysis of this data. The ASP is all about efficiency and how we response to passengers stimuli.”
“Airports all around the world are part of this program and we decided to join in to aid us in measuring what we do, using it to improve where needed and compete favourably among the comity of nations. Every six months, an independent and impartial judge in ICAO rate us based on the data we provide from the passengers who answer simple questionnaires posed at them.”
“This is a tested and trusted formula and it shows how committed FAAN is. Like all our programmes , the pilots will be in Lagos and Abuja and after some months we will broaden it with other Aerodromes. It is an effective program, we gather data and facts and use them to improve our performance.”
“FAAN has also subscribed to and has paid for an ACI Programme, the Airport Service Quality Program(ASP) which will help the agency measure our passengers reactions to all levels of our operations.
This program is all about gathering data from the incoming and outgoing passengers on all aspects of our operations to help us improve our services through analysis of this data. The ASP is all about efficiency and how we response to passengers stimuli,” he concluded.
Then there is the problem of reducing the illegal activities of touting at the airports.
Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, General Manager Corporate Communications FAAN while reacting to touting at the airport stated that as part of measures to further strengthen the security of the airports across the country and further weaken the activities of touts at the airport, FAAN has stopped the renewal of On Duty Cards (ODCs) for former airline and FAAN workers to ensure strict personnel monitoring.
According to her, cards renewal will be thoroughly scrutinized by the agency.
She commented,”Honestly, kudos must go to FAAN Aviation Security (AVSEC). They are doing quite well in that regard. In fact they try to make sure they do due diligence before anyone gets the red On a Duty Card (ODC) unlike in the past.”
” in fact I had to write so as some of my colleagues can get their expired ODC renewed. They have done well in reducing and sanitising the arrival. If you don’t have a flight or do not have anything doing inside the terminal, they (AVSEC) will not let you in.”
“That overcrowding at MMIA you used to know is no longer there. The collapsing and dismantling of several desks have eliminated people milling around our terminals. AVSEC has also intensified its checks on those entering the check-in hall to ensure that those who enter the terminal are those who want to travel. This has been able to effectively get rid of touts and touting,” she said.
“We also have to take cognisance of the fact that some people do not like queues and when people come in and meet them to help them buy tickets and check them in, they jump at it but in truth the public needs to be aware that they encourage touting. If you do not patronise them, they will not be there. So if the public is well-informed it will help us achieve 100% free airports. And mind you, if they are caught they are handed over to the police who charge them to court.”
In all, whether visible or invisible, FAAN seems poised to correct the anomalies that have bedevilled the nation’s airports for decades and they are taking certain steps to ensure that they get it right. Being galvanised by FGs Ease of Doing Business to make processes and facilitation better, the airports managers feel they play a huge role in attracting investors and opening up the nation’s economy.