The planned reconstruction of the Murtala Muhammad International Airport (MMIA) old terminal in Lagos, which was contracted to Julius Berger for N14bn in May 2019 may experience further delay over the ‘discrepancies’ in the newly commissioned new terminal, Daily Trust can report.
This is due to the difficulties in relocating airlines to the new terminal over the apron size, which is not wide enough to accommodate wide-bodied aircraft like Boeing 777s, 747s, A380s, Dreamliner, among others.
Weeks after the commissioning of the terminal by President Muhammadu Buhari, only Air Peace has moved its regional and international operations to the new terminal.
Also, African World Airlines (AWA) is planning to relocate to the new airport since it uses smaller aircraft for its regional operations.
Our correspondent reports that most of the over 30 foreign airlines operating in Nigeria have refused to move due to the capacity constraint.
Stakeholders have expressed concern over the development, saying the huge investment sunk on the project could make little meaning if the ‘anomaly’ was not swiftly corrected.
President of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Comrade Ben Nnabue in his May Day message made a reference to the ‘anomaly’.
He said, “We also call on the federal government to urgently address the serious shortcomings of the newly commissioned international terminal at MMIA so as to put the terminal to use. It will be a major disservice to this administration should the terminal turn out to be a white elephant. This must be avoided at all cost.”
But of particular concern to stakeholders is the delay in the reconstruction of the old terminal, which is wearing out on a daily basis on account of old age.
The MMIA terminal was built in 1978 and was officially opened in March 1979.
40 years after commissioning, the facility designed for 200,000 passengers has not undergone any structural change and expansion despite the exponential growth in passengers.
The terminal currently handles over 6m passengers annually with over 30 airlines now operating.
Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika had on May 19, 2019, told a stakeholders’ forum in Lagos that the federal government had decided to contract Julius Berger to handle the reconstruction of the old terminal.
“Thankfully, we have found a solution to the problems though N14bn is a lot of money”, he had said, adding that operations at the terminal would be moved to the new terminal constructed by the China Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCECC).
However, despite the commissioning of the new terminal, the old terminal may undergo much more maintenance works as there is uncertainty over when all the airlines would move to the new terminal.
“This is the quagmire we are currently facing and I only hope a solution would be found urgently to this quagmire. The reconstruction of the old terminal can only happen after all the airlines relocate to the new terminal, which is not likely to happen any time soon,” said a source with ample knowledge of the new developments relating to the busiest airport in Nigeria.
Acting spokesperson for the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mrs. Faithful Hope-Ivbaze declined comments on the development.
She had once told our correspondent that there are plans for the expansion of the apron of the new terminal to accommodate wide-bodied aircraft.
“There is going to be expansion. There are expansion plans already. You cannot build this kind of edifice without taking into consideration larger aircraft, it doesn’t make sense,” she had said.
Speaking with our correspondent, aviation analyst, Group Capt. John Ojikutu, rtd, said any attempt to relocate all the airlines to the new terminal would be causing massive flight delays.
He said, “The terminal building was ready but without adequate parking apron space. There are six boarding gates as against 12 in the old terminal building. What this means is that the new building is a potential facility that will cause regular delays of flights if more airlines than it can accommodate would operate from there.
“Right now, one airline is given to operate regional, continental and intercontinental from the terminal. That airline alone will be occupying three of the six boarding gates except the terminal operator will be allocating slots to airlines that will be using the terminal…”
Also speaking with our correspondent, an Aeronautical Engineer, Layi Fatimilehin blamed the current development on lack of proper planning.
He said, “Any individual or group of people referred to as organisation primarily have a target of making profits when he/she or they invest in any project or business at all. Whereby such objectives or goals are set aside and profits become allusion and people cannot also benefit from the investment, your guess is as good as mine. If you say poor planning, I will not object.”