By Kamal Ololade Ahmed
AS I entered MMA2, the airport owned and managed by Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (‘‘BASL’’), I began praying for the company and its promoter, Dr. Wale Babalakin. I wished I had his phone number; I wanted to thank him for his efforts in elevating the standard of airport operation in Nigeria and showing that Nigerians also deserve good things. Even though I do not have Dr. Babalakin’s phone number, I look forward to meeting him someday to congratulate him for the civilizing effect he has had on Nigeria.
Too many things fascinated me on that day. First, I saw the seamless compliance with COVID-19 protocols including the measuring of temperature and the sanitizing of hands. My bags were also disinfected. It was done without any hassles. I have been to other airports in Nigeria where these protocols are either not obeyed at all or only applied sparingly. You could also avoid them if you were a very important person.
Then I came into a hall that was large enough to accommodate all the passengers seeking to board and check-in for their flights. It was so comfortable and I immediately started comparing it to my experience in other airports in Nigeria including the international airports. I also observed that a new set of air conditioners were being installed to enhance the cooling in the facility. This is the most comfortable airport in Nigeria. It has no competitor and yet it is further being enhanced by the owners.
I went up the escalator effortlessly. When these escalators were being installed in 2006, I was one of those who laughed at BASL. I was sure it was going to break down permanently as similar facilities in other airports had broken down so soon after they had been installed. I am used to the irregular behaviour of the escalators in other airports in Nigeria. At the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos, we always clap on the rare occasions when the escalators actually work. I wonder how the expatriates coming to Nigeria feel when they arrive at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport. I always pray quietly in my heart that they would have cause to fly out through MMA2 and come to the realization that Nigeria is not an irredeemable case. Nigerians can actually provide world class infrastructure I earnestly hope that MMA2 will soon commence international flights and change the widely held perception that Nigeria or Nigerians cannot run a proper facility.
It is now 14 years and these escalators are still working. A large number of us went up the escalator and came into the check-in point as if we were in Europe or the United States of America. At the check-in court, I expected some bottlenecks. I was surprised to see that the check-in procedure was electronically handled. If you had your boarding pass, you only had to swipe it and you are checked-in. Again, as a regular traveler, I remember when it was commissioned around 2011 by the then Minister of Aviation, Mr. Osita Chidoka, I laughed because I assumed it was going to break down shortly after. It is now over 10 years and it is still working. I am sure Mr. Osita Chidoka looks back with joy that he participated in the commissioning of such an enduring airport infrastructure.
We went through the final screening position. The X-ray machines work very well. I also noticed that BASL was installing new X-ray machines at the check-in point. My curious mind made me ask one of the officials why this was happening. He explained that the owners of MMA2 are very particular about security. They had acquired new X-ray machines to replace the ones that were beginning to reflect wear and tear and also enhance the quality of screening at the airport. These X-ray machines, I gathered from the social media had cost BASL about $500,000.00 (five hundred thousand Dollars). This is clear evidence of the commitment of the promoters of MMA2 to securing our nation.
BASL bowled me over completely when we entered the departure lounge. Over 500 of us were sitting down in the general lounge in comfort waiting to board our flights. I could not believe the ambience. The shops were available for airport shopping and they were well maintained. All of the shops were very clean. The eateries were also organized without hassle. This was the common lounge. It was better than the executive lounges of all the airports in Nigeria. They also had executive lounges meant for those who wanted a lot of privacy. There you are treated like very important persons (VIPs). I pondered if this was Nigeria. I prayed very hard for the continued success of BASL hoping that as they have been trailblazers, God will grant them the courage to continue to lead from the front.
As I entered the flight in comfort, I began to wonder what type of country we were in. How a private company could create such an edifice and yet does not enjoy the full support of government? Why can’t the Federal Airport Authority of Nigerian (FAAN), with all the resources of the government and its internally generated revenue (IGR), create a terminal of this status?! Why must the government continue to insist on running the nation’s airports so inefficiently and inflicting pain on Nigerians when there is an alternative of handing over these airports to BASL?!
I began to wonder what the Lagos-Ibadan Road would have looked like under Bi-Courtney Highway Services Limited. This project was terminated in 2012. Nine years after, government is still constructing a 100-kilometer road. I am sure that the finished product under Bi-Courtney Highway Services Limited would have looked like MMA2. Nigeria would have been further civilized.
I respectfully appeal to BASL and Dr. Wale Babalakin to please keep the flag flying. May the Almighty God keep giving BASL and Dr. Wale Babalakin the strength to continue believing that one day our nation, Nigeria, will wake up to reality.
- Kamal Ololade Ahmed wrote via [email protected]