Improving facilitation at most Nigerian airports remains a matter of concern to aviation stakeholders globally. Passengers transiting from one airport to the other should be able to have a first-class experience irrespective of the class of ticket they bought.
Whether a business or economy passenger, the experience at the airports provides a springboard for the much-expected flights – be it local or international.
One problem that has bedevilled Nigerian airports in recent times is the problem of touting which the airport manager, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), has vowed to tackle headlong.
The resolve to nip the menace in the bud was witnessed in January this year when over 90 touts were arrested at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and were handed over to the police.
Daily Trust reports that the federal government had recently declared war on touting at the airports following outcries over the prevalence of extortion and bribery, especially at some of the major international airports.
The decision to set up a committee against touting came after a stakeholders’ meeting which involved the office of the Presidential Committee on Ease of Doing Business led by Mrs Jumoke Oduwole.
Since the implementation of the order to rid the airports of touts started, many people have been arrested.
The touts were arrested for various acts of illegality including fake COVID-19 test results, touting, unauthorised entry, trespass, illegal facilitation, forgery, loitering, theft, public nuisance and arguments, amongst others.
But in addition to curbing touting at airports which stakeholders believe is imperative to improve passenger experience, the FAAN management led by Capt. Rabiu Yadudu has received plaudits from stakeholders over the smooth transition from the SITA to Arlington RESA check-in system.
Though the transition came with a few glitches in international flight facilitation after the experience of the contract of Societe Internationale de Telecommunication Aeronautiques (SITA) which has been handling the Common Use of Terminal Equipment (CUTE) system at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja.
Speaking on this recently, the FAAN MD explained that the RESA option for passenger facilitation comes with improved packages at a relatively cheaper cost for the federal government.
He said, “CUTE has been there with us since 2009 and now 11 years later, FAAN and Nigeria are using the CUPPS system for five airports.
“Additionally, the self-service kiosk, we never had Common User Self Service (CUSS), but it comes with it now. The departure control system we never had before is all here now.
“Baggage reconciliation system is coming here; Flight Information Display System (FIDS) in Lagos, but not in Abuja is now all over. So, all the items spelt out in the contract are here, the improved package and improved software with much wider coverage for all Nigerians. So for us, we are very proud of this.”
This has again been complemented with the deployment of new facilities to boost passenger facilitation. The Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport recently received seven additional co-buses with a 100-passenger capacity in addition to new VIP airside buses to boost passenger facilitation on the airside.
Airport security is another issue which the Yadudu-led management has vowed to deepen to cope with the emerging security threat. The authority recently trained no fewer than 121 aviation security personnel operating at various airports.
In addition, 67 FAAN Aviation Security Officers graduated after training in the ICAO standard STP 123 Basic & Refresher Course to improve the level of security at airports held last year.
Stakeholders say the recent reopening of the new MMIA terminal would go a long way in decongesting the old terminal as soon as the issue of apron capacity is addressed.
The new terminal can process 14 million passengers annually and was built on land approximately 56,000 square meters with 66 check-in counters, while the construction work at the cargo terminal at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, Rivers State, is also ongoing.
But basically, the automation of the Murtala Muhammed Airport’s Hajj/Cargo Terminal Access Gate was seen as a step towards boosting revenue from non-aeronautical sources to meet several obligations to the federal government, especially the statutory contribution of 25 per cent of Internally Generated Revenue to the federation account.
With the steady recovery of the aviation sector after the COVID-19 pandemic, stakeholders say the provision of more infrastructural facilities would improve the airport rating and attract more airlines.
Aviation analyst, Mr Chris Aligbe, said eradicating touts, loiterers and miscreants within the vicinity of the airport is a great feat which must be sustained to improve facilitation.
According to him, training and retraining of personnel would go a long way in boosting their confidence and improving their competence. This is why he commended the FAAN management for taking training as a core of its developmental strategies.
Group Capt. John Ojikutu, the CEO of Centurion Security, told Daily Trust that curbing touting at the airports should be pursued to a logical end to protect the airports against external aggression.
He said, “There are many things to be done at the MMA that is located within the uncontrolled urban development of Ikeja, Oshodi, Mafoloku, Egbeda, Shasha, Ajao Estate, Bisam, etc and the complicated road network of Oshodi/Apapa, Oso/Agege/Abeokuta Express Road.
“There are many unregulated commercial vehicles including now Okada commuting or shuttling within the airport just as there are unregulated hawkers and shops around the terminals and car parks.
“The cargo terminals are a haven of touts associated with the cargo forwarding and clearing agents mostly unregulated or registered with the airport authorities or even with the customs.
“FAAN must ensure that it has records of these agents and limit their numbers within the areas. Similarly, access to the passenger terminals must be controlled.
“I once advised that all intended passengers must be given an access pass approved by FAAN. The access pass must not be more than two for any passenger but at the cost of $25 per seerer or meeter for international passengers and N500 for domestic passengers.
“FAAN must regularly review the ODC (On Duty Card) to ensure that staff that are out of their employment services are not coming to the airport using their used ODC for access into the airport, especially into the Security Controlled areas.”
Also speaking, another airport security analyst, Ayo Obilana, said “FAAN has always made concerted efforts to eliminate touts from the airports in the last 30 years but has been hamstrung by some factors and elements.”
He however advocated more funding for the authorities to improve infrastructural facilities in controlling unauthorized access to areas of the airport.