Tuesday, 26 December 2017

WHY MURTALA MUHAMMED INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT AND PORT HARCOURT INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT ARE RANKED LOW

MURTALA MUHAMMED INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Two Nigerian airports have been named among the 20 worst airports in the world. The Port Harcourt International Airport at Omagwa, Rivers State, was listed 3rd worst, while the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) Lagos emerged the 5th worst. This poor ranking, which has expectedly given the country bad press, can hardly be blamed on foreign media prejudice. Anyone familiar with the two listed airports, or any of the other airports in the country, will easily concur with the dismal rating, especially when compared to the experience at airports in some other parts of the world.

Our airports are a huge disservice to our efforts to join the league of developed countries. Their sorry state tarnishes our image both at home and abroad. The reason is simple. Airports, especially international airports like the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, are the gateways to nations. The first impression a visitor gets on arriving a country is largely dependent on what he sees and experiences at the airport. And, airports hardly deceive visitors: what they experience at the facilities largely reflects what they will experience in different sectors in the country.

The reputable aviation website, sleepinairport.net, which carried out the rating, measured the airports on parameters which include comfort, services, facilities, food options, immigration and security, customer service, cleanliness, navigation and ease of transit and accommodation.

With these objective criteria, how can anyone honestly fault this poor rating of our airports? To start with, Nigeria’s airports are often poorly maintained and inefficiently run. Many of them are notorious for their discomfort. It is not news when you get to the arrival and departure halls and find that the air conditioners are not working. The toilets are sometimes either locked up, without running water or unserviceable. The conveyor belts often work intermittently, sometimes leaving passengers waiting for long before they can collect their luggage. To top it all, airport, immigration and customs officials often   unabashedly ask for bribes. This is the sad everyday experience of the average person using our airports.

Our governments, and especially the aviation authorities, have to wake up and address this challenge. Our airports give the nation a bad image, and the earlier we wake up to the sad reality, the better for the country. Maybe, this is the time to organise a special aviation summit to properly articulate the problems and proffer lasting solutions. All the attempts to address the malaise in the aviation sector in the past did not go far enough because of a seeming lack of appreciation of the magnitude of the problem. The lack of political will on the part of our successive leaders to address the problems decisively has also not helped matters.       

It is shameful that our leaders travel abroad at all times, and they know the comfort, standard facilities and efficient services that they enjoy at other airports they use. They return home to our airports and are either unwilling or unable to provide similar services here.

The roads leading into and out of a nation’s airports, apart from the state of the airports, go a long way in determining the first impressions visitors have of that country. That is why we commend the Lagos State government for its ongoing massive rehabilitation of the roads leading to the local and international airport in Lagos. Even if they are designated as federal infrastructure, the Lagos State Government has taken it upon itself to rehabilitate them because of its acute awareness of the damage the do to its image and that of the nation.

This is the kind of attitude that we must encourage amongst the federal and state authorities. The aviation industry has huge economic potential all over the world. We fail to harness ours to our own detriment. (Sun)