Worried by the constraint to free access into the airports, the Senate House Committee on Aviation has ordered the review of toll collection system in airports around the country.
The committee directed the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), one of the aviation industry’s regulators, to ensure that the tolling system becomes flexible, to guarantee that vehicles conveying passengers are no longer delayed unnecessarily at the toll gates.
The lawmakers, during a meeting with regulatory bodies, also frowned at a situation where airport staffers are also compelled to pay tolls daily, which they described as “morally wrong”.
Recall that most of the airports, especially the international ones in Abuja, Lagos, Kano and Port Harcourt, have a tolling system that mandates all vehicles, irrespective of its purpose or duration of stay, to pay tolls ranging from N300 to N600 to access the airports’ vicinity. But during rush hours, the tolling corridors are often congested with long queues. Attendant effect is that some passengers end up missing their flights.
Vice Chairman of the committee, Sen. Bala Na’allah, said that the Senate had received one-too-many complaints by passengers missing their flights, because “we are always doing our own things in reverse order.”
Na’allah noted that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards oft-cited by regulatory bodies, provided for easy access as much as possible in airport area without compromising security.
Addressing top echelon of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) among others, he said: “All of you travel abroad and you know that there are short stay and long parking. And if you are dropping off passenger, you don’t pay. But that is not even the issue. The issue is that passengers will be on a very long queue to have access to the gate of the airports to pay while their aircraft are taxing out.
“Every five minutes in aviation is very important. If I take off now (from Lagos), in five minutes I’m almost around Abeokuta. That five minutes that you delay them to pay, is causing some passengers their flights, some of which are very critical.
“Once someone leaves his house to go somewhere, even for a party, it is to satisfy himself. You must do everything humanly possible to make him achieve that so that you can have peace with him,” Na’allah said.
The pilot turned Senator cited instances of standard airports around the world where priority is often given to departing customers because they don’t want anyone to miss their flight.
He said: “We must make security available for people to have easy access into the airport and as quickly as possible. Then, when they are going, you let them pay. They can afford to be on the queue because they are not travelling. That is the area I want you to work from 2017. We must do something about this in all the airports.”
Senator Mohammed Lafiaji (Kwara North), commended FAAN for trying its best amidst dwindling resources. He, however, said that some issues, like workers paying tolls, couldn’t be justified.
Lafiaji said: “We cannot in the quest to make money for the organisation put so many burdens on ourselves. So, this must be addressed as soon as possible.
“We have a situation where workers genuinely working at the airport are meant to pay gate fees before gaining access to the airport. I think it is morally wrong. That is where I work and I should have access to where I work. And so it is all over the world.
“Workers who work at airports must have access to their offices because you have given them FAAN Identification Cards. Why should I have FAAN ID and still queue to pay toll to enter the airport? It is unnecessary.”
The Managing Director of FAAN, Saleh Dunoma, agreed with the concerns raised and promised the lawmakers that the authority would begin to look into the issues.