About 15 months after its official opening, the new terminal at Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) is still largely deserted.
As at the last check by The Guardian, only six airlines – all African carriers – currently occupy the edifice built at the estimated cost of $100 million.
For the legacy carriers, the complaint has been that the design flaw had little or no consideration for the aircraft parking lot and apron for manoeuvring of wide-body airplanes at the new terminal.
At the official opening of the state-of-the-art facility in March last year, President Buhari was proud of the much-awaited facility as a befitting replacement for the eye-sore that the 45-year-old MMIA old terminal has become.
He described it as the most suitable gateway into Lagos, the economic capital of Nigeria. Unfortunately, the beautiful edifice was still not fit-for-purpose due to parking space constraints.
As at last year, only Air Peace, Asky and African World Airline (AWA) had a presence in the terminal. The list has since doubled, with the likes of South African Airlines, Air Cote d’Ivoire and Royal Air Maroc, processing passengers through the terminal.
The new facility, however, has a capacity for over 30 airlines. Covering a landmass of approximately 56,000 square metres, the terminal has 66 check-in counters to process 14 million passengers yearly.
The country Manager of one of the European carriers said the terminal is very good, but “still far from completion”.
“We already have our spaces booked and modified to welcome our passengers. The facility is a good replacement for the older MMIA terminal. The challenge is that the parking space request has still not been met. The authority has told us that they are working on it and when they are ready, we are ready,” he said.
The new facility has been a design suspect since the last administration inherited it from its predecessor. The then Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, publicly faulted the positioning of the new terminals (in Abuja and Lagos), describing them as sitting in the wrong locations. The Lagos new terminal was shackled in between private hangars and a new multi-layer car park.
The tee-shaped facility has the tail area surrounded by seven aircraft-boarding fingers (three on the front side and four behind). The major challenge is aircraft manoeuvring to reach the exterior that has four fingers.
Apparently, to correct the flaw, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) had issued eviction notices to hangars and structure occupants near the MMIA’s new terminal, even as such action is expected to cost the government up to N10 billion in compensation.
The demolition exercise, which is to make way for aircraft parking space at the terminal, will affect offices of the Accident Investigation Bureau Nigeria (AIB-N), Dominion, Evergreen Apples Nigeria (EAN), Caverton and ExecuJet hangars eviction notices.
Also affected are the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and the towing companies close to the AIB-N regional headquarters.
To date, only the AIB-N office has been demolished and no action has yet on other encumbrances. A conservative estimate offered that the demolished regional headquarters and its Command and Control Centre are worth N5 billion.
Secretary General of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), observed that a lot of unilateral decisions were taken on the airport’s terminal building by the former minister of aviation (Stella Oduah), outside of the standard, professional advice and approval of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
As the way forward, Ojikutu said if it is true that N5 billion is needed to compensate for the car park and the hangars, “I think FAAN can conveniently pay them off within a year to create sanity around the new terminal building.”
“The car park is more of a security risk to the terminal building than the hangars that are marked for demolition. The question to ask the operator of the car park and the NCAA is; is there any security programme approved for the operations of the car park? I doubt it.
“My estimated revenue earnings for FAAN from its projected international passengers and air traffic is sufficient for FAAN to conveniently pay the N5 billion to the car park and the owners of the hangars to avoid the security risk and lack of aircraft parking space,” he said.