Stakeholders Assess MMA2 Impacts On Terminal Development

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* Dr Wale Babalakin *

 Players in the Nigerian aviation industry assessed the impact of the Murtala Muhammed Airport Two (MMA2), Lagos on development of terminals and its legal tussles with the government since it came onboard over a decade ago. OLUSEGUN KOIKI writes

The Murtala Mohammed Airport Two (MMA2), Lagos owned and operated by Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL) is indubitably the best terminal in the country. Since its commissioning April, 2007, 13 years ago, it has made a great economic impact in Nigeria by generating commercial and business opportunities for thousands of the public, while also providing direct and indirect employment to hundreds of people, including foreigners.

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The tragedy that struck the terminal one building of the Murtala Mohammed Airport (MMA), Lagos on May 10, 2000 left lots of aviation stakeholders befuddled and with a sad story to tell.

This inferno however, gave rise to the birth of MMA2 under a Design-Build-Operate-Transfer (DBOT) arrangement scheme in 2003.

The imposing edifice has won commendations not just from the operators and passengers in the country, but from the revered Airline Council International (ACI), and was listed among the best terminals in the world by the council.

However, the terminal operator and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) have been entwined in concession agreements especially on the life span of the tract and scope of activities of the concessionaire before being returned to the government, which have seen both parties in different courts across the country with various judgments, but with most going in favour of the former.

This crisis, stakeholders and professionals in the sector warned if not amicably settled, may discourage the takeoff of other Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangements especially in the industry.

However, apart from this, players in the sector insisted MMA2 has changed the face of aviation in Nigeria with seamless ways of passenger facilitation and organisation of activities in the privately-owned facility, despite operating in a “difficult terrain.”

Mr. Olumide Ohunayo, Director, Research, Zenith Travels in an interview with our correspondent on the assessment of MMA2 in the industry after 13 years of operations, described the terminal as the beauty and flag point for Nigerian aviation industry.

Ohunayo noted that since it came onboard in 2007, the terminal has won various national and international awards, stressing that no government terminal has been able to measure up to the standards of MMA2 in spite of billions of naira expended on them in the past 10 years.

Ohunayo explained that rather than the government to expend public funds in remodelling or constructing terminals across the country; such funds should be channelled towards provision of safety and security infrastructure for airlines, equipment and the travelling public.

He noted that the success made by the management of MMA2 terminal has shown that airport concession was the way to go for the government, but craved for transparency and openness by the government and private investors.

He said: “MMA2 has consistently won prizes for the best mileage and the best terminal awards in Nigeria. It shows that when we have the will, we can actually do it. It also supports the position of Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ART) that concession of terminals is the way forward provided there is transparency, openness and involvement of all parties particularly the unions and associations within the industry.

“I see it as a beauty and as that flag point for us to look at that option of developing other terminals within the Nigerian airspace, rather than continue to pump in public money into such ventures.

“I think we should utilise public funds to provide safety and security within the industry, while the terminals can go to people who can find a way of modelling it to make profit, services, depending on what the objectives of such airports are.”

 

The Zenith Travels boss, emphasised that no matter the legal battle the terminal operator may be having with FAAN, it has come to stay, but called for amicable settlement of legal issues by both parties.

He said once this is amicably resolved, it would encourage more PPP participation in the industry and accelerate growth.

Grp. Capt. John Ojikutu, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Centurion Securities said that the Federal Government has spent billions of naira in airport construction and remodelling in the past eight years, but none was comparable to MMA2 in terms of passengers’ comfort and services.

Ojikutu noted that the terminal has more passengers’ check-in counters and boarding gates for airlines and other users of the terminal.

He noted that virtually all the indigenous airline operators were operating from the terminal in spite the alleged high charges by the terminal operator, saying that this indicated that the terminal provided services that are lacking in the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) of the Lagos airport.

“Almost all the domestic airlines are operating from the terminal. Surprisingly, at the outset, Arik Air management that declined the government directive in 2007 to operate from the terminal has changed its mind.

“That shows there are things that the terminal provides that are lacking in others, particularly the GAT that is located in Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA) with it,” he said.

Ojikutu, however, dismissed the notion that there was a serious crisis between FAAN and BASL on the agreement of MMA2, rather he said political interference in the concession agreement gave birth to the crisis.

“There is no serious imbroglio between FAAN and Bi-Courtney management. What I know for sure is that the present FAAN management has a very different approach to the strongman mentality and I believe, if given a free hand to handle the Bi-Courtney matter, without any political interference, Capt. Rabiu Yadudu, the Managing Director of FAAN is very capable of resolving it from the approach I heard he is taking,” he said.

Besides, Mr. Adeola Fadairo, aviation analyst, described the birth of MMA2 as a game changer to almost non-existence of smooth facilitation of operating environments as far as the domestic terminal operations were concerned.

 

According to Fadairo, the terminal has become a benchmark on terminal management, stressing that its emergence erased the sordid experience of the past on class and smooth passenger facilitation.

Fadairo who, is also the CEO of Mavis Nigeria Ltd, stated that the emergence of the terminal brought out dynamism and creativity on how facilitation could be improved, adding that it also challenged the Federal Government to modernise various terminal buildings in the country.

He added: “MMA2 management proved that it can always be better than what we’ve come to be associated with like the warehouse looking terminals that dotted the domestic landscape of the aviation industry. It has beautify the aesthetic landscape of the country as far as terminal facilities are concerned compared to the dingy domestic terminal buildings at the airports that we have come to be associated with in the past.

“Apart from the economic and employment generation it gave birth to, the terminal is a reference point for non-aeronautical revenue business generation. Look at the advertising aspects that it created. Areas where the government officials don’t seem to capitalise albeit deliberately was brought to the open and the revenue streams become a fantastic money spinning machine for the operator.

“It is the terminal that you can meet and greet freely and still make money unlike the seedy environment of other terminals being operated by government. It shows that there’s nothing extraordinary in providing good services at our terminals, except greater opportunities and appreciate pricing for the operators,” he said.

Like others, he canvassed for amicable resolution of the concession agreement with FAAN.

MMA2 has the capacity to facilitate four million passengers per annum with its modern technological innovations, which include the Common Users Passenger Processing System (CUPPS), self-service check-in kiosks, Automated Access Gates and the Baggage Reconciliation System (BRS).

But, Dr. Wale Babalakin, the Chairman of Bi-Courtney Limited in a recent interview with journalists said that the terminal was futuristically constructed to accommodate 10 million passengers annually.

Babalakin regretted that the political maneuvering, various legal battles and the continuous operations of GAT by FAAN slowed down the management in its expansion drive, stressing that FAAN owed BASL a sum of N200 billion being the damages awarded against the agency by a Federal High Court and subsequent revenue accruable to it from the operations of the domestic flights from GAT.

  • Credit: Daily Independent
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