…by Olowokere Olowo
Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, started as a cargo airport for Julius Berger Construction Company
when the construction of Abuja as the Federal Capital city of Nigeria began. It was later upgraded to a domestic airport and today, it is an international airport.
Apart from the renovation of the runway, which had been continually put in use fourteen years after its lifespan, a lot of general renovation is ongoing in the terminals and around the airport. Operators are optimistic that by the time all the renovation works are completed, all hitherto moribund infrastructures may have been brought back to life and the entire airport will have a new facelift.
However, not all the infrastructures will meet the need of users. For instance, the terminal B, a departure area for domestic flights has always been with just two toilets for female and two urinary for male, no provision is made
to increase them in the scheme of work going on at the airport.
Feelers at the airport indicated that there is no consideration for increment and by the volume of traffic at the airport, which is put at 1,200 at full capacity, there is no way the two toilets each for each sex will be sufficient.
“We are not saying that all the entire 1,200 will want to use the facility at the same time, but at least there should be more of them so that passengers will be comfortable on their trips. The one on ground is grossly inadequate and no one is even talking about it”.
Our usually reliable source said the toilets in the international terminal are relatively okay. He said the central chiller in the airport is dysfunctional unlike what operates in airports around the globe, a situation he said does not portray Nigeria as a serious country.
He added that the chiller has always been supplemented with package units, the 1 ton air-conditioning units which are usually inadequate, especially in Abuja where the temperature is higher than most cities in the country.
The source said no flight information display system (FIDS) is available in any of the terminal, except the one that is provided in the international terminal C, which is not functional. The device is the board on which flights information are displayed, such that passengers will know at a glance on entering the terminals the flight schedules, cancelled or postponed flights and any other information regarding flights operations.
The source said conveyor/ baggage belt and escalator are not in proper shape as they are always breaking down. He said an elevator is being constructed around where passengers hitherto climb steps to the sterile point (last check
point) before boarding. He said what the airport need most are escalators which have the capacity to move more people at a go unlike elevator that is time bound.
His words, “Elevator may not be able to pick more than 10 people at a time, others will then have to wait for it, maybe, for 2 to 5min before it will descend again and pick another 10. Even if it has space for 20 people, it is still not enough. 50 people can be on escalator at a time and it keeps moving, it is not time bound.
Apart from the fact that elevator is not a mass people mover there is also the concern for safety. In a country where our electricity is erratic, there may be power cut and people are trapped in it. What if the people trapped are almost
already late for their flights, you can imagine that scenario”.
He said though people mover equipment for the elderly, physically challenged and people with reduced mobility are available in the international terminal, they are not well serviced. This he said had given rise to people being
carried on wheel chair and climbing the steps with them. This scenario, he said, can be tiring for both passengers and service providers.
He said equipment such as Ambulift which is supposed to be provided by the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Plc (NAHCO) and the Skyway Aviation Handling Company Ltd (SAHCOL) to facilitate boarding for the sick and people with reduced mobility are not available.
According to him, the idea of screening of cargo alongside passengers should be discouraged as it does not portray Abuja airport as one situated in the Federal Capital of a country like Nigeria.
He said in a situation where passengers are being shoved here with cargo is not a good sight to behold in an airport of Abuja status.
He advised that the screening of cargo should be separated from screening of passengers.
As the airport is practically torn apart with major repairs ongoing, operators are optimistic that airport will no longer remain the same as they hoped for a shift from where they were before now, even if the standard might not be appreciated in major cities of the world.