Fixing Nigeria’s International Airport & Road Network

6 December 2011, Sweetcrude, Lagos – I was so busy last year with the enactment of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act that I did not see or smell any international airport in 2010. I resorted to conducting all our businesses through email, skype, phone calls and scheduled meetings with international partners and customers that were visiting Nigeria. It made a lot of sense to focus on internal and national issues. This year, I have had to travel by compulsion and I have been subjected to the deplorable state of our airports which is fast becoming a nightmare.

Some of the requirements of Nigerian Content are Capacity building through partnerships, training, research and development etc requires setting up facilities in-country and engaging experts to put things together and commission facilities. In-country human capital development specialist programmes, such as: gas conditioning, gas processing, pipelines and Subsea engineering etc., require foreign facilitators. I feel pained by what we subject ourselves as Nigerians and our foreign guests to at the international airports. Surely, we are not animals. Why should I land at an airport that has no functional air-conditioning? Why should casualties be caused by a dysfunctional escalator at MM International Airport? Why should the carousels fail and cause undue hardship for those waiting for their luggage whilst some employees have to manually move suitcases? I worked it out. It is either that the Ministers of Aviation and Transport have been too busy to spring a surprise inspection on the team at the international airports, all the maintenance staff at MMA have been sacked or are on retirement, there is a faulty reporting system, diesel supply is an issue, the generators that can power the air-conditioning are faulty, the air conditioners are faulty and we have not got the foggiest idea of the volume of traffic that use the airport vis-à-vis the design capacity of the airport.

Whilst Nigerians in diaspora lambasted the minister in absentia, moaned and groaned about how bad Nigeria is, I did request that we all shut up our mouths because our talking for the past umpteen years has not yielded much result. I enjoined all the complainers that I managed to speak with to do something no matter how small so that we see the difference that is much required. Hopefully, this piece would be read by someone who can either escalate the problem or do something about the pathetic situation that our international airport has found itself in.

Can our President and his Ministers invest our money in the upgrade of the primary international airports which are no longer fit-for-purpose as well as fix the major roads that transport equipments and supplies?. When would there be an extension to the airport? Since the amount charged in taxes is astronomical, why can’t the government put this income in to some good use and invest it in providing a better service to its customers (the airline companies and us passengers)?. We can not afford to treat ourselves as animals. How do we expect to be respected by any foreigner who goes through a dysfunctional airport? Our government officials from the presidency to the governors jet out routinely to foreign countries soliciting for investors very un-mindful of what first impression these investors would have of Nigeria passing through our airports: the structure; the equipments; the facilities and most critically the attitude of airport officials?

Now back to Nigerian Content, what infrastructure, conducive environment for investment and logistics must be in place as a minimum requirement for efficient implementation of the Act? Is NCDMB aware of these on-going pains and how it is impacting on the bottom line of the relevant stakeholders? I am proposing that the Minister of aviation and transport respectively read out the riot act to the appropriate personnel and bodies and ensures that rather than return money to the coffers of Government at the end of the year that appropriate and published expenditure be undertaken to alleviate the pain and frustration of all international and local travellers. We can not afford to continue with the lackadaisical manner in which we run facilities that are dilapidated without scheduled maintenance programmes. We can not afford to loose valuable lives on the express and motorways because someone has not done their job or money has been embezzled. Cry my beloved country because we are no longer at ease and I am worried that the centre is no longer able to hold. We really need help. If we can put the time and effort expended in planning parties, awards and conferences into strategic thinking, planning, project execution and implementation we all would be the better for it. Fundamental to Nigerian Content implementation is good, focussed, proactive and functioning leadership.

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