The Minister of Aviation, Festus Keyamo has expressed concern over the parlous state of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, describing it as an eyesore and a shame of a nation.
He consequently directed the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to begin the relocation of airlines before October 1, 2023, to the new Lagos airport terminal which had been built but could not be used because of lack of space to accommodate wide-body airplanes.
Once the airlines are relocated, the Federal Government he said would begin a comprehensive repair of the old terminal that many airport users have described as decrepit.
According to the Minister, “I said they should move and use the new terminal that is all I have said. The new terminal is under-used; we spent a lot of money building it; we have to use it. The old terminal is a total eye-sore. Since I came into office, I have heard complaints upon complaints. The central air-conditioner is not working, the carousels are not working, they break down quite often and the approach into the airport is smelly and totally unwelcoming to people coming into Nigeria and that is a gateway to Nigeria.”
Over the years because you cannot shut it down and for a total overhaul, they do things that are tokenistic; today, repair one light here, tomorrow remove this. It has been difficult to carry out a comprehensive overhaul even for those fighting over concession now. I know that you know that they are fighting over concessions over there. How can they even carry out repairs even if they win the concession?
“Over the years because you cannot shut it down and for a total overhaul, they do things that are tokenistic; today, repair one light here, tomorrow remove this. It has been difficult to carry out a comprehensive overhaul even for those fighting over concession now. I know that you know that they are fighting over concessions over there. How can they even carry out repairs even if they win the concession?
He queried the design of the new terminal wondering who gave approval to build the terminal where it was built.
“The simple reason is that I don’t know how this new terminal was designed. It has a provision to take big planes. I don’t know how it happened. I’ve been asking questions about how they would design an international gateway like the Lagos terminal without a provision to take the big planes; it doesn’t have the aviobridges that can link to the big planes.
Meanwhile, 60 percent of the revenue of FAAN comes from the Lagos Airport. The Lagos gateway is one of the major gateways in the country. So what is the solution to this? We have said we must use what we have for now. I’m giving the international and all the other airlines up to October 1 to move from the old terminal to the new terminal.
To give space for the expansion of the new terminal, the minister ordered that the Dominion Hangar owned by Bishop David Oyedepo, and Evergreen Apple Hangar owned by a former Director-General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Demuren should be relocated.
The Minister who inspected facilities at the Lagos airport equally gave owners of disused aircraft littering strategic areas of the airport, saying they constitute a danger to the airport, stressing that the three months notice given to them to remove their aircraft would afford the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to expand the Lagos airport apron to accommodate aircraft that are still in service.
A common sight strikes the eyes of passengers in airports throughout Nigeria’s major airports as old aircraft that belong to bankrupt airlines share the ground with on-duty planes and wear out in the weather.
He equally explained his decision to suspend Nigeria Air and concessions projects, stressing that it was not a cancellation but to ensure transparency and due process were followed.
He however stated that he suspended the project at least for now until he briefs President Bola Ahmed Tinubu with a view to taking position on the two projects.
“We have not canceled any project. We have only suspended some things that people complained about. We must be very responsible for the feelings of Nigerians. Even if something is good but not transparent, Nigerian people must know the processes by which you give out their commonwealth. Nigerians must be aware of how you give out their commonwealth to individuals in the name of concession.”
“Nigeria Air should be suspended. I have directed until I brief Mr. President to see that the process follows a transparent way. That is why some people were my being appointed Aviation Minister. 90 percent of why I am here is about laws and regulations and we are interpreting it better for Nigerians to understand. Being here, I am trapped between diametrically opposed absolutes and interests. If you go here, here will complain, if you go to another place, that place will complain. That is this office.”