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Our new terminals will improve capacity, passengers’ comfort — FAAN MD

Could you give an insight into the move by FAAN to make Nigerian airports an aviation hub in Africa? For you to be a big…

Could you give an insight into the move by FAAN to make Nigerian airports an aviation hub in Africa?
For you to be a big player in the aviation industry, you must comply with the rules and regulations set by, first the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and, second, the relevant international aviation organizations like the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Authority), IATA (International Air Transport Association) and ACI (Airport Council International). Once you comply with these standards, you are a key player.
 To do that, you need to open up your system so that they can audit you. When they audit you, they will be able to do a proper assessment of your facilities, procedure and staff to make sure that you have the right set-up in terms of infrastructure, equipment and trained manpower to drive your process. We have just done a security audit which Nigeria passed with over 96 per cent. We have received the report and we are trying to close all the gaps identified by the safety audit conducted by the ACI. We have been given time to close these gaps and then there would be another audit. Once we close these gaps, the news would go round to international players that Nigerian airports have fulfilled the audit requirements, passed the audit test and airlines would be comfortable to operate at our airports.
What are the gaps identified by the ACI?
The gaps include the need to improve on the frequency of the rubber deposit removal on our runways, to re-mark our runways and to improve on power outages in terms of re-lamping our airfield lighting system.
How far has work gone on FAAN’s reconstruction of new terminals in Lagos, Kano, Abuja and Port Harcourt?
The new terminals were designed to achieve three things: increase capacity, improve facilitation and improve passengers’ comfort. When these terminals are completed, we will have additional capacity to what is existing. Second, the design of these terminals is such that it considers modern-day airport operations. Third, it considers passengers’ comfort. In all, they will provide for smooth operation and facilitation of passengers.
All the four terminals in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano have reached various stages of completion and by the middle of next year, we will start the commissioning. Kano is likely to be commissioned first because work has gone far on it. It would probably be followed by Port Harcourt, Abuja and Lagos.
What security measures has FAAN put in place for this Sallah season? And how prepared is the Authority to handle the expected increase in passenger traffic?
We are ready. Normally during festivities like this – Sallah, Christmas, etc  –  we normally beef up security around the airport, improve on passengers’ facilitation and instruct our operators to strictly adhere to the rules at the airports so that passengers can pass through the airports smoothly.
 But smooth operation can also be enhanced by the passengers. We advise passengers to leave their homes in good time so that they can arrive at the airport early, go through the processes – screening and checking-in – and then board their flights. For passengers, leaving the home at the right time is key. At the airports, we have put in place facilities to fast-track passengers’ processes.
 On security, we’ve beefed up facilities at all the airports. We are liaising with all the security agencies at the airports to make sure that an additional level of security is provided for safe operation and smooth passage of passengers.
What other challenges are being faced by the Authority?
One challenge we are facing is inadequate level of traffic. An airport depends on high traffic volume to earn good money. So if we have additional traffic into our airports, that would help us generate more revenue and maintain our equipment properly.
 But how do we improve on traffic at the airports? This is a big challenge; it is not something we can solve on our own. The only way is to encourage airline operators to come into the airports so that the airports can generate more revenue. To do that, we need to not only provide the necessary facilities, but to also improve on them to make them attractive for airlines to use.
Recently, a team of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) visited FAAN to conduct corruption assessment of the nation’s airports. How disposed are you to this exercise?
It is welcome; we are partners in progress. We agreed with them on the need to stamp out low-level corruption. We are working with them and it has been so far, so good. The initiative started sometime last year and the recent visit was just a follow-up to check how far we have gone in implementing what they told us to do at the beginning. It is a continuous collaboration between us and the ICPC in order to make ourselves aware of what things constitute corruption, what we should do and what we should not do.
There are 40 aviation mega cities in the world, with the one in Africa located in South-Africa. What are the prospects here to that effect? Are we close to having an aviation mega city?
FAAN, in collaboration with some state governments and the Federal Capital Development Authority, is working towards having an aerotropolis around our airports. In Abuja, for example, we have already identified land to be developed to that effect. This land has been earmarked and surveyed. We are planning the logistics, while a consultant has done a design for us. What is left is to conclude and agree on the structures of ownership. Once that is agreed upon, we will start implementation.
 Also in Port Harcourt, we have done that, working in conjunction with the Rivers State government because the land belongs to the state. We have to work with them to enable them give us approval to go ahead and develop an aerotropolis around the Port Harcourt airport.
 In Lagos, it is tight; Lagos is a fully developed city. It would be difficult for us to develop an aerotropolis around the Lagos airport but we are still looking at some few parcels of land that we can convert and turn into something that would complement the efforts of the airports authority.
There have been complaints about the cumbersome process of clearing goods at airports in Nigeria. What are you doing to simplify the process?
I don’t think simplification is the word. There are laid-down procedures that must be followed. There are the Customs and airport procedures in place. These procedures must be complied with. No matter what we do, passengers must comply with those procedures. The only thing is, how do we expedite cargo clearance? The regulators and operators, that is, the Customs and FAAN, are working together with the clearing agents to make sure that clearing at the airport is expedited.
 

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