Nigerian airports on global assessment
Great expectations have replaced the eager anticipation within the country’s aviation circles following the arrival of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) team to conduct an audit. Nigeria emerged with flying colours at a similar exercise conducted in 2006.
According to Jean-Claude Waffo who is leading the team, the audit will access the state’s capabilities to oversee regulations as well as ensure compliance. A further boost of confidence came earlier last week when the American Transportation Security Administration, TSA, which has just completed a security assessment tour of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) gave the airport high marks.
The U.S. team also commended FAAN for what it called, ‘consistency methodology’ in the implementation of TSA’s security procedures which are of ICAO standards. The U.S.’s TSA assessment has, therefore, provided an elixir to a prior sense of trepidation. The airports have benefited from the upgrade of Air Navigational Services as well as Aerodrome and Ground Aids, enabling a fine mix of technology and human interface.
General public perception on safety issues also resulted in the provision of a modern laboratory for Accident and Incident Investigation and prevention. In all these, the provision of relevant legislation to align the sector with best practices is a continuous exercise. The airports have received massive improvements with security scanners installed at various passenger processing and baggage handling points.
The highly sophisticated scanners can detect liquid explosives and other potentially offensive materials. New access control and monitoring systems, with tighter access control procedures have been put in place to keep away unauthorised persons from sterile areas of the airport. The new CCTV (Close Circuit Television) systems have also been installed to enhance security at the airport.
Security around the perimeter fencing has been reinforced to keep out unwanted access to runways. FAAN has increased motorised perimeter patrols, and installed remote electronic intruder monitoring systems and security tower observation. The parameter access road has been reconstructed in order to facilitate patrols and enhance security.
Early last year, the management of MMIA introduced an e-tag system for taxi cab and a functional Wi-Fi to enhance connectivity. Fire- fighting tenders have been procured as well as robust training programmes within and outside our shores.
The new international terminal under construction will be delivered at the close of 2016, with additional capacity of five million passengers. The present terminal which is about four decades old has not been left to its fate. It received a new lease of life following an ambitious facility upgrade.
The expanded terminal area has added 42 metres in length to the Arrivals and Departures areas at both ends of the terminal, adding 5,830 square metres to the terminal. Simply put, the cramped lounge areas were expanded to four times its original size, creating more space for passenger mobility and processing thereby enhancing passenger satisfaction.
The newly created ‘E wing’ of the Arrival area alone occupies 2,915 sq metres. A new luggage conveyor belts systems with a handling capacity of 1,000 passengers per hour has made the terminal truly customer centric. The ongoing project of creating the Arrival and Departure points on two floors at the terminal will soon be completed to make for easier security processing at the airport. The international lounges and transit hotel also nearing completion will make the Lagos Airport, a regional hub to behold.
The capacity of the Lagos airport is further reflected in the recent influx of more foreign airlines coming into the country to do business. These include The Emirates, Royal Jordanian, Ethiopian and Etihad airlines. Lagos remains favourite of American brands like Virgin, Delta and United Airline.
After operating for 80 years in Nigeria, a British Airways Chief, Paolo de Renzis says Nigeria remains very strong for its operations. Various safety and security features are already in-built into the design of the new terminal under construction.
As the team undertakes its assignment, the imprints of the cumulative experience of a man who was, at various times, Airport Manager, Director of Security, Director of Procurement and Director of Projects will be so apparent. Saleh Dunoma, the engineer MD/CEO of FAAN remains a relic of experience and professionalism.
The passion and commitment of Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transport and Sen. Hadi Sirika, Minister of State, Aviation have translated into achievable goals.
• Yakubu Dati writes from Lagos.
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