Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Murtala Mohammed International Airport As A Death Trap!

Murtala Mohammed International Airport As A Death Trap!

“Hello - Passengers for flight 9ja001 for London, with stops in Ota and Minna! The departure gate has been changed to Aso Rock. Please proceed to departure gate immediately. Unfortunately, there will be a long departure delay due to slight hiccups at our electricity supplier (PHCN) as a Python has been found in Kanji Dam Hydro Station. The ground Crew has invoked our business continuity plan which entails setting up candles and Tiger! Tiger! Generator please do not be anxious it is Air-Cooled Gasoline/Diesel (0.45-6KVA) compliant, all to ensure that our preparation for departure goes as smoothly as possible. We currently have too many passengers for seats available, and in line with practice, we are offering complimentary round-trip tickets to a few passengers willing to take Ekene Dili Chukwu. We should be boarding when Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) gets diesel for the airport generator. We have been unable to make contact with the contractor responsible for that aspect of the business continuity plan. (They seem to have put the same phone number as that of Mrs. Fidelia Njeze the aviation Minister of the Federal Republic down as their contact details.) We thank you for your continued patience”

The narration above is a fictitious announcement (with slight modifications) was put together to depict the daily comedy we witness in Nigerian airports. The statement in part may appear exaggerated but it is not that far from reality.


Tee A and Ali Baba, two well-known Nigerian comedians need not research for comedy materials - a visit to the nation’s number one hub Murtala Mohammed International Airport should give them more than enough material!It is very sad but we are currently witnessing unprecedented rot at Nigeria’s main international airport. Late Dr Shola Omoshola, the American trained Aviation Security specialist, when he was alive asserted that the Nigerian government ran our airports like a corner shop in a Lagos side street. Several years after Omoshola was killed, now in the year 2010, the situation seems to have gone from bad to worse.


The aviation ministry sees our airports as a milking pot. As soon as ministers are appointed, Nigerians get promises that very quickly turn out to be hot air.The only positive point is the privately run Lagos Airport MMA 11 but even that flourishing spot is not immune to the larger rot in the aviation industry.On Sunday 9th May 2009, Nigerian media reported that hundreds of passengers were left stranded at the international wing of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos as a result of power failure. Some sections of the media reported that the outage lasted between 4 to 6 hours. If this particular outage had been a one off, it would not have been of any serious concern to citizens, but outages in MMA is fast becoming the norm and Nigerian passengers are beginning to get used to it.


It may be said that the airport is part of the larger Nigerian society, and so power outages are nothing unusual. We should however remember that an Airport running on epileptic power supply is putting lives of hundreds of passengers at risk. Any organisation incapable of providing adequate back up power supply is failing abysmally. The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria is charged with the running, maintenance and day to day administration of our airports and the authority’s spokesperson in reaction to the discomforting event of Sunday May 9Th is reported to have admitted that poor power supply is affecting service delivery at the airport. He was however quick to add that the authority rectified the outage of Sunday May 9th (reported as lasting 4-6 hours) in good time.


Whilst Mr Olukunle as an employee of FAAN may not be able to voice out the true state of affairs (which is most likely to be dire), it is important that Nigerians should urge the authority and the Nigerian government to take steps to ensure that no major disaster befalls innocent passengers as a result of the increasingly deteriorating service levels at the airport. We must admit it now that the MMA is not only a death trap, but a disaster waiting to happen. Power outages may be the most glaring problem to members of the public but the FAAN authorities should immediately take their case to the federal government and ask for intervention from not just the aviation minister but the best brains in the aviation industry.


All hands must be on deck to save the country from impending disaster.FAAN should also take a look at the perimeter fencing adjacent to the neighbouring “Sasa Village”. Those areas are anything but a protective fence. A terrorist could easily position at the landing area which is close to the run way, armed with a rocket launcher and bring down any landing aircraft.


It is amazing that FAAN has not given that area top priority as a weakness in our airport security. The outer part of the fence should be cleared so aviation security personal can implement external patrols which are at the moment limited to the inner side of the fence.I believe it is sheer luck that Al Qaeda or other fringe terrorist groups have not taken advantage of the porous state of our airports’ security.


Staff members are overworked, underpaid compared to the large revenue the organisation receive from airport users, and the airlines, and thus prone to corruption. It is only a matter of time before a terrorist induces an airport worker to wreak havoc. We are yet to introduce counter terrorist units to work closely with our aviation security administrators in an age where Nigeria is fast becoming attractive to Al-Qaeda. A standard vetting system needs to be put in place and facilities such as Toilets, Car Parks, Eateries upgraded to meet basic health and safety standards.We are failing to meet the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) mandate that airports must operate with sufficient number of trained and well equipped personnel to be able to perform at high standards.


FAAN officials may spin some accreditation from the American Civil Aviation Authorities as a testimony of FAANS efficiency but don’t we all now know with the Farouk Abdulmutallab incident that we can not place our standards just on the Americans but on the basic principles that lives of airport users in Nigeria must be protected and provided with the best of services.To the Credit of staffs in the airport, it is a miracle that they have been able to deliver current service levels in spite of the poor conditions they are forced to work under. We can not continue to count on luck. Government must seriously and urgently intervene to save us from a tragedy waiting to happen.