Aviation Business Features Interview 

STAR INTERVIEW – common front between the agencies and the passengers or airlines -Mrs Victoria Shin-Aba

Following the Executive Order, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, the managers of no fewer than 22 Airports in the country moved into action to bring a new lease of life into the nation’s airports. Today our airports are not only more comfortable, passenger friendly, safe and secure than hitherto but they are rapidly transforming into image making edifice for the nation as they have gradually become compliant with international best practices. Aviationline brings you recent development at the nation’s main gateway, the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos in an interview with the Airport Manager, Mrs Victoria Shin-Aba

AVIATIONLINE: HOW HAS THE EXECUTIVE ORDER AFFECTED OPERATIONS AT THE MURTALA MUHAMMED AIRPORT UNDER YOUR DIRECT JURISDICTION?

AIRPORT MANAGER: As the gateway into the country the Executive Order (EO) really affects operations at the airports particularly at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, being the major entrance into Nigeria.

When the Order came, it came at the right time. You know the Order came from above; it became imperative, as the leading agency at the airports, we have to toe the line.

Since airport business involves other security agencies, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has to carry them along in the implementation process.

In the immediate, our concern was to make airport experience pleasant as it is done worldwide. When the order came, FAAN, as the leading agency at the airport, summoned other stakeholders, particularly security agencies, with a view to forging a synergy, a common front of some sort, for the implementation of the Order.

One of the main issues in the Executive Order was that there should be a common front between the agencies and the passengers or airlines.

This is a departure from the existing practice whereby a traveler would have to contend with multiple checks manned by the various agencies operating at the airport. This necessitated several meetings between FAAN and the other security agencies including the Bomb Disposal Unit of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF), the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), the Nigerian Quarantine Services (NIQS), the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), and the State Security Services (SSS), among others. They had to be merged together so that there will be no point meeting them at various points. Following the meetings and consultations, committees were set up to structure the successful implementation of the Executive Order.

One of the highpoints of the implementation was the eradication of the Search Table. The Search Table had been like a sour point to our image as an airport in the first instance, and as a country, in general. This is the only airport in the world where people open travellers’ baggage and searched manually. That was the first phase; that table was eradicated.

AVIATIONLINE (Interrupts): HOW MANY PEOPLE USED TO BE ON THE SEARCH TABLE?

AIRPORT MANAGER: At the Search Table other security agencies are represented: the NPF Bomb Disposal Unit, the NDLEA, the NCS, the NIS, the SSS, etc. Each of the airlines’ check-in counter used to have a Search Table. Actually, it was an aberration before the implementation of the Executive Order, when a traveler came in he was searched manually at the entrance, his/her baggage was subjected to manual checks at the baggage hall by the various agencies and there was another security screening before the final boarding. Altogether, there were three (3) checks whereas the standard should be one (1) or at most, two (2). The check at the entrance by the NPF Bomb Disposal Unit is because of the security threat. That was the system then. But now, we have eradicated that and that has brought a lot of sanity to the airport. The passengers felt a lot of relief. People were afraid to come to the airport then to do whatever they wanted to do. The situation gave a lot of room for extortion and other vices. Extortion, for instance, was rife then but today, it has been eradicated completely. The situation on ground now does not allow for any form of extortion. Once in a while we do manual checks especially when the scanning machine reveals any suspicious material in any baggage. This is because of drugs and some other things; we don’t want people to capitalise on the reduction in check points and turn our country into a drug transit nation.

The Scanning Machine at the gate is now being manned by a few of the agencies just to make sure that nothing offensive passes through. It is not all the time; it is random or when it shows on the screen that a prohibited item is in a baggage. Only such baggage is brought aside for further scrutiny/screening. Before, we used to have two (2) of such Screening Machines but today we have four (4). Actually, as we speak. Three (3) have been fully installed and are functional.  The fourth one is not yet fully activated; it is being fixed and as soon as that is completed we shall put it into immediate use. When that is done, it means that each of the four (4) gates will have a Screening Machine. Once you enter into the Terminal Building now, either you are a passenger or not, you will be screened. That is one of the advantages of the new arrangement. In the beginning, there was the problem of sifting passengers from non-passengers. We have them (Scanners)at the Departure and Arrival Hall. The one at the Arrival Hall main entrance, we’re trying to change it to the latest model in scanning technology. Even we have redundancy as we have more than enough scanners. We are good on that.

You know, the Executive Order also involves people do not go beyond certain places at the airport. Before, people used to get as far as the Tube to pick passengers. That has since stopped since the implementation of the Executive Order started. Now you cannot have unlimited access at the airport. Nobody, under whatever name, has access to restricted areas at the airport.

Only people allowed are officials of the Ministry of External Affairs and the FAAN Protocol officials. There is always an approved of passengers they handle. The instruction, following the Executive Order, is that all other agencies at the airport, by whatever name they go or in whatever form, must come under and be controlled by the Aviation Security personnel (AVSEC) of FAAN.

AVIATIONLINE (Interrupts): WILL YOU SAY WE HAVE ENOUGH OF THESE SCANNERS?

AIRPORT MANAGER: With the Executive Order, we ensure that our scanners perform maximally. In terms of numbers, we have excess. At the gate, we have two (2) there. What we have are top notch products of the latest technology. We have scanners at Arrival and Departure; even at the Cargo Terminal, even the Baggage Hall. The one at the entrance of the Arrival hall, we’re trying to change it to the latest model. Sometimes, I can tell you, we have redundancy.

AVIATIONLINE: DO YOU STILL EXPERIENCE INTER AGENCY TUSSLE?

AIRPORT MANAGER: Not really. Undoubtedly, this is a multi-agency facility. Everybody takes order from their respective agency outside the airport. But the fact still remains that the Airport Manager is the Chairman of the Airport Security Committee, a position which gives the Airport Manager the overall edge over all the heads of the other agencies. In other words, they are still subject to the Airport Manager’s instructions, an arrangement which is in accordance to the standards and procedures of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). You know, you don’t just act, you just don’t do anything, you don’t even think in aviation; you merely follow the laid down Standards and Recommended Procedures (SARPs). This is how it is done all over the world to ensure there is uniformity in standards.

As far as we are concerned, since the new measures were introduced, there has not been any inter-agency friction of any significance capable of disrupting operations. Interpersonal friction can exist, anyway; that cannot be ruled out, it’s normal where you have a number of people from different backgrounds and agencies working together. We are all human beings. However, FAAN is in firm control as the lead agency running the airport.

AVIATIONLINE:  WITH THE NEW ARRANGEMENT, HOW MANY CHECK POINTS DO YOU HAVE?

AIRPORT MANAGER:  Before the Executive Order there were five (5) check points but now there are only three (3) – the Main Gate as you come in, the Immigration check and the final Screening. The real security screening is being manned by AVSEC. The government has done a lot in this respect and the passengers are a lot happier today that things have really improved.

AVIATIONLINE: (Interrupts): HOW DO YOU FEEL THE PULSE OF THE PEOPLE YOU SERVE?

AIRPORT MANAGER: We have our feelers among the passengers. They give their expression about the development at the airport. We are with them; whenever we need to extract information about these things we are doing, we have our communications facilities: we have the Customers’ Service Desk and the Information Desk where passengers and other airport users can express their opinions about our services. In fact, the passengers, before boarding, are given opportunity to make suggestions about how we can serve them better or make their complaints, if they have any, against us. We collate all those things and seek ways to improve.

AVIATIONLINE: CAN YOU COMPARE NOW WITH THE RECENT PAST ESPECIALLY REGARDING THE TIME SPENT BY PASSENGERS TO COLLECT THEIR BAGGAGE AFTER THEIR ARRIVAL?

AIRPORT MANAGER: The delay experienced by passengers in collecting their luggage, having arrived at the airport is a thing of the past. Baggage collection, especially on arrival, has improved tremendously.

This is because three new conveyor belts were commissioned recently at the International Terminal; I think April or May this year or thereabout. Each of the belts can handle a Boeing 747. These three are just adequate for an airport of our size which capacity is not more than 450 to 500 passengers at a time. Besides these three we have two smaller ones which complement the main ones. They are meant to serve the West Coast passengers. In all, we have six functional belts, three at each end of the Arrival Hall.

AVIATIONLINE: WITH THESE NEW BELTS IN PLACE WHAT WILL YOU SAY, IN TERMS OF TIME, THAT IT WILL TAKE A PASSENGER TO COLLECT HIS BAGGAGE AFTER ARRIVAL?

AIRPORT MANAGER:      In the past, it took at least two (2) hours; three (3) hours sometimes after arrival. But now, it takes at least 45minutes. The standard, worldwide, as stipulated by ICAO, is 45 minutes.

Yes, that is the standard all over the world. And that is an evidence that we are now ICAO compliant in that area. We are making progress; there is no doubt about that. Now, from the time you arrive to the time you leave the terminal building has been reduced to 45minutes.

I think departure that used to take up to two (2) hours has also improved. We have gained like 30minutes, it’s no longer up to two (2) hours again. In fact, it is less than one and-a-half hours sometimes. Nobody searches manually again at the various desks of the agencies. Unlike before that a passenger entered, the airport, he was searched, his baggage ripped open and searched by these agencies. Now, that has been stopped. You know there used to be queues; that has been abolished completely.

But now, once the search at the gate is thorough, you move on. I can boldly say that we have gained 45 minutes. At the gate, the search is thorough. We have been able to reduce the check points from five (5) to three (3) now.

AVIATIONLINE: HOW EFFICIENT ARE THE CONVEYOR BELTS?

AIRPORT MANAGER: Previously, there had been frequent breakdown of this facility thus causing delays especially for passengers arriving. Let me be honest with you, we don’t really have problem with the arrival. When there is any breakdown in the system, within one (1) hour it has been fixed. It is rare to have three (3) big flights on ground at the same time. We have three (3) Conveyor Belts. Being that as it may, peradventure we now have a breakdown, that cannot be resolved easily, we divert passengers. What we mean by diversion is this: ok, an aircraft lands, say through the A Finger. Passengers are supposed to come out through the Tube at Terminal Arrival Hall E. What we do is that from the Tube, we take them to a free side, say, the D Arrival Hall. We do this with a lot of indication flags so that the process can go on easily; through operations, the Immigration and the Customs documentations without hitches. All we need to do is to inform our handlers about diversion; and this has always been seamless. When we embark on such a diversion it takes about five (5) minutes; you know that our airport is not big and as such it takes less time. If it’s some other airports it will take a longer period. From where you disembark from the aircraft you will walk about a mile or two before getting to the Terminal Building. In our own case, when we divert, it really doesn’t make a lot of difference.

AVIATIONLINE: WITH THE EXECUTIVE ORDER, DO YOU STILL EXPERIENCE FREQUENT POWER FAILURE THAT HAS GIVEN THE AIRPORT A BAD IMAGE?

AIRPORT MANAGER: I can tell you that power failure/outage is relative at the airport. The Murtala Muhammed Airport gets power supply primarily from the national grid through 33-KVA facility at Isolo and a similar one at Ejigbo. These are the two major thermal supplies to the airport. Even when one is off the other comes on. Besides these, there is a premium line. We’re given preference because of the sensitive nature of the services rendered at the airport. Most of the time we don’t experience problems on them. In addition to these, however, we have the secondary power supply. About three (3) or four (4) years ago FAAN commissioned six (6) heavy duty power generating sets. They were all new. We left our old Power House into an entirely new one. The only reason for such measures was to transmit uninterrupted power to the Terminal Building. Apart from that we have other areas; like we have dedicated generators, for instance, the runway and airfield lighting. We have dedicated generators even to the Terminal Building. Before the main generators come on, we have subsidiary ones in case of sudden power outage which come on immediately. Then, we have Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) units especially for the airfield lighting to prevent sudden power outages and systems failure. The UPS which we use as standby/back up is actually time bound. With it we can retain power in sensitive areas before the generators are switched on.

But then, we experience power outages, at times; it is normal depending on the cause. We have systems failure once in a while. Even in the advanced countries, they experience systems failure. Cables can get burnt, equipment can go bad. These things don’t give notice. On one or two occasions, you can have construction companies especially when you have construction work going on as we have at the new terminal and the contractors finds it difficult to determine the supply cables. Even when you have a primary supply source and generating sets, there is little or nothing you can do under such circumstance to prevent outage traceable to such damages. But then, we have our contingency plan to bring outages under control. We have dedicated engineers on ground 24 hours of the day to clear such faults.  At any point in time, when there is power failure, these engineers on ground are there to take care of faults.

May be, before this time we had been unable to manage information adequately in the event of power outage, it had turned awry and gave the country a bad image. You know, with the social media information spreads quickly before you know it, you have bad publicity on your hands. That had been our experience in the past. In any crisis situation, information management matters a lot. People need to be adequately informed. The last power outage we had was really well managed such that it did not give us bad image. There was synergy between the airport and the Corporate Affairs Department of the Agency. Immediately it happened we informed the General Manager about the situation and the appropriate information was sent out to the public to the effect that the situation was under control. We had positive image rather than sensitive report of ‘Power Outage at MMA’ or Blackout hits MMA’ This was because the public was adequately informed about the cause of the outage and most importantly, that something positive was being done to bring the situation under control. In case of any of such occurrence in the future, we will keep the public well informed. We will manage our information very well so that we will not be embarrassed as an Agency and the country will not be portrayed in bad light. It happens everywhere. There is no way your systems can be perfect to avoid such situations; it depends on information management.

AVIATIONLINE: IS THERE ANYTHING IN THE EXECUTIVE ORDER THAT HAS CURBED THE PROBLEM OF YOUR FORMER STAFF OR THOSE OF OTHER AGENCIES AT THE AIRPORT?

AIRPORT MANAGER: The Executive Order is addressing that, though it is not specific about it. That notwithstanding, we’re not looking at it in isolation; we’re taking a holistic view of the problem from the stand point of eradicating completely the twin evils of touting and extortion of passengers by unscrupulous elements at the airport.  These vices, in the past, had given this airport, in particular, and Nigeria, in general, a bad image. That is why we are reviewing the issue of access control. A committee is already working in that direction. We are reviewing everything concerning access control and issuance of On-Duty Cards to authorised airport operations’ personnel free access to sensitive areas at the airport. Unlike in the past when these former staff are found in sensitive areas at the airport because they are familiar faces there, the Executive Order makes it mandatory for access control to be reviewed. Following the Executive Order, a Committee was put in place which reviewed the procedures and guidelines for issuance of On-Duty Card to airport officials from the different parastatals handling operations. At the end of the day, we want to know those who are in every part of the airport especially the sensitive areas at the airport. We are also working to put our Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) in place to monitor all areas at the airport especially the sensitive ones in order to eliminate access by undesirable elements. The quantum of cameras to be deployed will cover the entire airport and even the access roads. Though we have some cameras for our CCTV; they’re not enough. We want more.

With our CCTV we can monitor different parts of the airport with less hassles. It is a device that can easily catch anyone involved in any unwholesome act at the airport. It is technology driven; we intend to deploy it for the effective policing of the airport. Very soon cameras will be fitted to cover the entire airport. We will continually monitor them. But I want to assure you, pilfering and extortion of passengers have reduced. With the Executive Order, machinery is already in place to check all these things.

AVIATIONLINE: THE GENERAL AVIATION TERMINAL (GAT) COMES UNDER YOUR ADMINISTRATION. HAS THE EXECUTIVE ORDER RUBBED ON FACILITIES AT THAT TERMINAL ALSO?

AIRPORT MANAGER: This is a facility under the Murtala Muhammed Airport justification/control. Therefore, the Executive Order covers it as well. What we have done there so far include the upgrade of the Protocol Lounge at the terminal to make it more conducive for its users. The facilities we have put there are meant to make the users comfortable. It is possible for the users to have snacks there, pray or have a small meeting there. The environment is internet compliant. It is a place where one can be and be comfortable while waiting for flight or where you can relax and conduct business upon arrival before leaving the airport.

It is a nice piece of work. It was really recently refurbished. The people that use that place are those we classify as Very Important Personalities (VIPs). As the name suggests, they include elder statesmen, senior citizens in our society. They are the state governors, ministers, National Assembly members, National Honours Award winners, traditional rulers, High Court Judges; we have a long list of VIPs using the place. This is the standard practice all over the world. They use the services of our protocol officers to facilitate them. We have our scanner there. We have facilities like toilets, internet coverage comfortable and state-of-the-art furniture. We make sure our guests are made comfortable; we have snacks for them. There, they can have small meetings. The place is demarcated in such a way that in case a governor is travelling and there is need for him to hold small meetings with some people, the facilities are there.

AVIATIONLINE:  WE WANT YOU TO COMMENT ON THE AIRPORT CAR HIRE OF OPERATORS WHO PARK ANYHOW AT THE AIRPORT, FIGHT OVER CUSTOMERS (PASSENGERS) AND GIVE A BAD IMAGE TO THE COUNTRY’S MAIN GATEWAY.

AIRPORT MANAGER: Virtually, they have grown with the airport. Some of them have been there for over forty (40) years.

You know, one problem with this airport is that some people come in under whatever name, they don’t go. That is why you always have these touts. Who are those touts? They are the ex-staff of FAAN, airlines cleaning contractors, police, name it. That one is going to be handled. With time, they can be marketed out. We (FAAN) have our game plan as the managers of the airport. We are thinking of a sort of Airport Taxi Application similar to Uber to handle all these things in the nearest future. At the end of the day they (Car Hire Operators) can be marketed out. These days everybody uses the Uber App cab operators. The regular taxis are now finding it difficult to get customers. We want to fashion out something like that which will involve a passenger just calling a cab via the App. By the time this new arrangement come in place and we have registered companies for it, I believe the Airport Car Hire Operators will also have to look elsewhere for business. Honestly, I must tell you this, to get these people out will be pretty difficult; some of them have been here for 30 or 40 years now. They know the nooks and crannies of the airport. They also know our strengths and weaknesses. But we are working on it. One thing I believe is: with technology we can control so many things without stepping on toes or having direct conflict with anybody. We won’t join issues with them. All we want to do is to develop an App which passengers will use to facilitate their transportation in and out of the airport. It is up to us as the airport managers to evolve our own strategies to resolve all these issues and make the airport operate under the best aviation practices known elsewhere in the world. We need to be at par with our counterparts in other parts of the world. I have reached out, also, to some ICT experts; we have to have our website; not FAAN website but MMA website where all our activities, utilities, flights, any information whatsoever can be accessed all over the world. Like this app we are talking about; we will put it up on the website so that people will know it’s available here. Also, all facilities at the airport, we intend doing that. It will take time but we will get there.

AVIATIONLINE: IT IS ALLEGED THAT SOME UNSCRUPULOUS FAAN PERSONNEL DELIBERATELY CREATE BOTTLENECKS ON ACCESS ROADS TO THE AIRPORT TO CREATE JOBS FOR THE ‘BOYS’ TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THOSE COMING LATE FOR THEIR FLIGHTS

AIRPORT MANAGER: No, I think I want to disagree with that. It is our main duty to facilitate passengers within the shortest time. It is not only in the Terminal Building we want to do this, but also on the access roads. But we are all aware of the security threats in the country. This Boko Haram of a thing, for instance. It is because of this alert that we have the escort on the access roads. We cannot, because of facilitation, compromise security. As soon as we notice any traffic build up we quickly relax the control especially the access to the international terminal. We are improving tremendously

Our main duty here is to facilitate passengers at the minimum time. It is not true that we create bottlenecks or what people refer to as artificial traffic hold up around the airport. Be that as it may, you’re aware of the security threat, especially of Boko Haram, All Qaida, and other terrorist threats across the world. Nigeria is not an exception. We cannot take chances especially with the country’s strategic location to different destinations in the world.

We need to embark on routine security checks on vehicles that come in and out of the airport. When we do that it is not our FAAN officials that run such security patrol but the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) personnel. I want to assure you that facilitation cannot make us compromise security. It is our duty to maintain security not only at the Terminal Building but also on the access roads around the airport.

AVIATIONLINE: IS THE AIRPORT’S PERIMETER WALL FENCE ESPECIALLY AT THE SHASHA END STILL POROUS?

AIRPORT MANAGER: The Shasha end of the Airport, you see; do we really still have issues at that end? The thing is that they climb the fence. We do anti climb all the time. I must assure you, the era of porousity or people going ”Shasha by Air” has ended for good; it has gone.

AVIATIONLINE: (Interrupts): WHAT ABOUT THE SAFETY AND SECURITY OF LANDING AIDS?

AIRPORT MANAGER: We don’t really have that one again. To combat this, we now have FAAN security personnel who are constantly on patrol to secure facilities at the airport. The whole of the air side and the parameter wall is covered by patrol. In addition, we have guards who complement the efforts of FAAN security. They are FAAN guards to protect certain areas. We have to get people from that area to be our guards. You know, if you want to catch a thief, you can use a thief; they know their people very well and they find it easy in tracing their paths in case of any issue. Since we have been using them, we have not been having issues like cable theft anymore. It used to be cable theft that was rampant at that time; that, we have put behind us. Really the security patrol is for 24 hours of the day, seven days a week.

AVIATIONLINE: IS IT TRUE THAT THERE ARE SOME PEOPLE IN FAAN WHO HAVE BECOME ‘TRADITIONAL RULERS’ OF SOME SORT AT MMIA? WE UNDERSTAND THAT EACH TIME THEY ARE TRANSFERRED, THEY REFUSE TO GO. THEY FEEL THEY SHOULD BE LEFT ALONE WHERE THEY’RE KNOWN AND THEY HAVE INFLUENCE. CAN YOU COMMENT?

AIRPORT MANAGER (Laughs): I don’t think there is such a thing. It is not true. The first time we are given appointment letters in FAAN we’re made to understand that our area of deployment is determined by the authority. You are made to understand that you must be ready to be deployed to any destination to do whatever the agency alone has the power to determine. It is part of our service conditions. The issue of people refusing transfer does no arise at all. Even those of us who are women, we have no choice in the matter when it comes to issues of deployment from place to place. You have no option in the issue of transfer. Some of us have been deployed to several airports like Calabar, Abuja, Akure, among others, before we are finally deployed to the headquarters. Once in the employment of a federal government agency like FAAN, one must be ready to serve in any part of the country. The moment one accepts appointment, you can be moved at any time at the discretion of your employer, in this case, FAAN.

AVIATIONLINE: PLEASE CAN YOU COMMENT ON CROWD CONTROL AT MMIA?

AIRPORT MANAGER: This is an issue here. I will not say no, our culture is an issue we are contending with here. Let me give you an instance here. There was a particular Sunday, I had some things to do at the airport. I came in when it was already past four o’clock in the evening. I, as an Operations officer, now not as a Manager; in as much as I don’t believe in preventing people from coming into the Terminal Building, there is still need to maintain order either in the Arrival or Departure areas to avoid criminals mixing with bonafide passengers. I saw a crowd as usual. When you raise questions, they would tell you they’ve come to see one person or another off at the airport. That is the type of experience we have here. Some will tell you the person they’ve come to see off is old, therefore they should be allowed in. Let me start from the passengers themselves. In Africa, Nigeria in particular, one person will want to travel, ten (10) people will follow. If it’s a man, the wife will come, the siblings, even your good neighbours will want to come. If a young person, the parents will want to follow. Everybody wants to come. At the end of the day, 10 people will want to see off one passenger. The facility we have in place is for the passengers only, that is one.

Another group of people giving problem are the airport workers. Those that are well known over the years. They’re familiar with almost everybody at the airport. As soon as they work at this airport, even if it is for just three (3) months, they don’t go again. Familiarity with people here as former colleagues, with time, we will get over this problem. You cannot eradicate it but I can assure you it will be reduced to the barest minimum. By the time we have our CCTV in place it will be drastically reduced. I still believe, reasonably though, passengers will still be allowed to use escorts. The reason is this; two people are coming with one person, that can be tolerated but when you have an entourage, some of whom will even try to get as far as the Tube, then we will begin to raise issues. We don’t have the space to hold the people that come into the airport daily. In our bid to reduce people milling around the airport, we are considering relocating Air France from its present location.

What I am saying in essence is that at the end of the day, we have this group of people: you have ex-staff, you have ex-this, you have everybody milling around. That is one of the things I want to bring to the barest minimum.

Those parking in front of the terminal building, parking in front of the arrival Hall as soon as the new car park is commissioned, nobody will have reason to park anyhow at the airport.

AVIATIONLINE: WHAT IS THE LATEST ABOUT THE AIRPORT’S COOLING SYSTEM (THE CHILLERS)?

AIRPORT MANAGER: Honestly, we still have a little challenge there but it is not something that is insurmountable. Over time, we have tried several times to proffer solution to this problem. What we have in place is a temporary measure, not a replacement of the Central Cooling System. We have invested in about 500 standing units of air conditioning system in the terminal. They are used continuously 24 hours, seven days a week. You know there will be issues, they must give problems as a result of this continuous use. We have people on ground who manage them also on a continuous basis.

But even with that, the main thing we need is to make the Chillers work. The management at the headquarters is really working on that. In fact, I have had discussions with the Director of Engineering Services and hopefully, very soon, I think we will have them running. By the time we have them running, we will not need all these units.

AVIATIONLINE (Interrupts): IS THE SITUATION SO BAD THAT THE PASSENGERS ARE NOT FEELING ANY COMFORT? IS THE ALTERNATIVE IN PLACE SERVING THE PURPOSE AND MEETING THE NEEDS OF THE PEOPLE? IN TERMS OF COMFORT?

AIRPORT MANAGER: Really, not that the situation is bad. It is not as bad as people say it is. In case you have the time, you can walk round the Terminal Building, you will discover that it is not as bad as people say it is. FAAN is really spending money to make sure things improve, passengers are comfortable and our airports are like the ones we see elsewhere. You know palliatives are not like the real thing. It is like just treating the symptoms; if you don’t cure the real source, you will still have problems. It is better to hit at the source and that is what we are doing. You spend more money and it takes a lot of time, but now we are trying to cure it from the root. Within the shortest possible time, we are supposed to have the Chillers working.

AVIATIONLINE: WE HEAR THE TOILETS ARE STILL NOT WORKING. IS THE PROBLEM OF NO WATER STILL PERSISTING?

AIRPORT MANAGER: No, the issue of no water, in the last four (4) or five (5) years, we’ve put that behind us. We’ve not had issues of no water at MMA, that I can assure you.

We are constantly upgrading our toilets. We are trying as much as possible, even though when we have our contractors, we are trying to supplement what they are doing.

The problem of the toilet is tied to the Chillers. We have vents that are supposed to suck the odour coming out of the toilets. These are attached to the Chillers. Now that the Chillers are not working, we have this problem. As a palliative, we try to place fans in the toilets to ameliorate the situation. You know that the airport design is such that there are no windows and there is no way these things can go out. When the Chillers are fully reactivated, the smell will be eliminated. It is not that we are not cleaning enough, we are trying our best. Being that as it may, the contractors are working refurbishing the toilets gradually. They have started with some. We cannot shut all the toilets at the airport in one fell swoop. It’s an ongoing thing. We cannot embark on rehabilitation that will place a lot of hardship on the passengers and airport users.

AVIATIONLINE: LET’S TALK ABOUT THE FLIGHT INFORMATION DISPLAY SYSTEM (FIDS) AT THE TERMINAL; IS IT STILL EPILEPTIC OR EFFICIENT AND GIVING ACCURATE INFORMATION?

AIRPORT MANAGER: The Flight Information Display System (FIDS); If we are not efficient in this area, the airlines and the passengers will not give you rest. If there is any wrong information, it will deceive the passengers. We have them (FIDS) at both the Arrival and Departure Halls. The information is accurate, that, I want to assure you. In addition, we now have information stands in the terminal.

AVIATIONLINE: AS A FORM OF CONCLUSION OF THIS INTERVIEW IS THERE ANY PARTICULAR INFORMATION YOU HAVE FOR THE PUBLIC?

AIRPORT MANAGER: We want to inform the public that the Murtala Muhammed Airport is substantially transforming, constantly improving to make travel experience a pleasant one; to make their travel experience safe and secure; to make sure that they don’t have a sad story to tell about the airport and they are not afraid to travel. We want to make our airport passenger friendly. That is what we are doing here. We want to bring about change at the airport and that the change has actually started. The change, at the end of the day, will be so obvious that people will be able to say that what they see when they travel overseas are now being replicated here. Whenever and wherever we have challenges, we are ready to confront them. By experience and training, we are always ready to confront challenges; we are not running away from them because they are meant to be resolved. Happily, we are getting the cooperation, support and the motivation of the headquarters to counter these challenges headlong. That is the secret of our success so far.

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