Saturday 18 August 2012

In search of safer skies? Habitable airports first

By Joan Adah Ochagwu

Historically speaking Aminu Kano Airport is the first airport in Nigeria, its humble beginnings lies in the historic landing of a RAF pilot on a horse race pitch in 1925. Ten years later it upgraded to what was then known as an aerodrome, as the years went by it metamorphosed to its present structure of Aminu Kano International Airport. During its lifetime the airport has served and continues to serve civilian and military flights. However its simplistic building terminal is not deserving of an airport terminal of one of the largest and most important trading commune in sub-saharan Africa.

The main terminal with the control tower serves international flights and domestic services operated by local airlines. Facilities in the departure lounge are minimal, with a newsstand near the check-in counter, and a small bar at airside. There is a small VIP Lounge for business class passengers. Duty Free shops are currently closed. In the arrivals hall there is a small bar and a post office.

All these are set to change with the current reconstruction efforts, this historic terminal in Nigeria’s aviation is set to undergo a remarkable makeover, but however some critics are unhappy. One is pushed to ask then, are regards their motives of continually seeing the nation’s ai

rports in moribund states.

Before the current reconstruction efforts of the Minister of Aviation Princess Stella Odua, successive administrations paid lip service to the issue of Aviation infrastructure, our Airports and Terminals had existed for almost 40 years without any upgrade in terms of facilities, as such they were not only decayed but were an eyesore to any one either foreign or local who passed through them. It is pertinent to note this simple analogy –an airport that has no functional toilet facilities is not one that should be in the business of flying. It was this dysfunctional and national embarrassment that ensured that the Minister embarked on this noble exercise. However, the project managers of these several projects have reiterated their commitment to ensure that best practices are applied in terms of the engineering designs and drawings; some of which it was discovered during conception were competing favourably with similar ongoing airport projects around the world.

A clear instance of the aforementioned is the near life threatening case of power outages at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja which has 70 % dependence rate on Generating Plants because the public power source PHCN always does not meet the power requirements of the Airport. The Ministry has finished conceptualising a permanent solution that will soon be implemented.

Some of the Ministry’s traducers looking for straws to hold on to have gone to the Appropriation Act for validation; however they may wish to note that even the act makes exemptions in certain cases. The fact is the current Minister assumed duties in July 2011 several months after the Appropriation Bill 2011 had been passed.

The National Assembly then appropriated part of the funds to the Ministry in its Appropriation Act 2011 while the balance was in the existing BASA Account which resides with the Ministry. To access the appropriated funds for these Projects and utilise the BASA funds the National Assembly is empowered to exercise control by giving or withholding Approval. For the records the Ministry followed the statutory guidelines and obtained the requisite Approvals before accessing the funds.

Another point worthy of note is the courage the minister had to overcome bureaucratic red tapes with her declaration of Emergency programs in addressing dilapidating airport infrastructure in Nigeria this she achieved by applying and to the provision under the Procurement Act of the Bureau of Public Enterprises BPE under which the requirement for advertisement and bidding was waived to fast track the duration of conception to completion of the numerous aviation infrastructure.

It is to be noted that the "regular " Contractors in the Industry responsible for the over thirty (30) years of rotten decay of the Infrastructure are very upset that the Minister did not award these Projects to them and thus have been at the forefront of Petitions, Sponsored Advertorials outright insults and name calling. It is quite sad that Nigerians who are accusing the Executive for non implementation of the 2012 Budget are responsible for the delay in the Execution of Projects that ought to have been commissioned and put to use. It is however gratifying that all the Petitions have been nullified as containing no substance.

It should be noted also that no one has complained about the quality of work being done at the Airports, no one is unhappy with the fact that for the first time the Projects are not concentrated in Lagos but are spread to Yola, Kano, Owerri, Benin Kaduna etc.

Stakeholders must insist that the detractors of this rejuvenation taking place in aviation sector is not derailed, if we aspire for greatness our airport terminals must be the best as we welcome the world to our shores.


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