Looking Beyond the Nose

For a country the size of Nigeria, with a huge travelling population, the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Lagos, Nigeria’s major gateway, is an eyesore. This is beyond the dysfunctionality of the structure and its atmosphere. Everything is wrong with the airport.

For a country the size of Nigeria, with a huge travelling population, the Murtala Mohammed International Airport Lagos, Nigeria’s major gateway, is an eyesore. This is beyond the dysfunctionality of the structure and its atmosphere. Everything is wrong with the airport.

The ‘remodelling’ exercise of the airports embarked upon by former Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah was a sham to say the least. The truth is that the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos that attracts millions of passengers in annual throughput, has a huge potential than any airport in Africa, and so, deserves a turnkey multibillion dollar investment.

With the sheer power Oduah wielded, coupled with alleged squandering of millions of dollars without due process, the nation was given in a very hurried manner what is generally described as substandard airport terminals across the country.

Nigeria deserves better airports and not the shambolic edifices that do not meet world’s standards. It’s a pity that our project mangers do not look beyond 30-40 years when building airports.

Let’s take a cursory look at some current airport expansion projects and juxtapose it with what we have.

Chicago O’Hare International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world, a major international and domestic hub for some of the largest carriers in the world. It is home to United and American Airlines. Its modernization is expected to gulp $15bn, covering the reconfiguration of the runway system, the construction of new runways, runway extensions,  with some additional works:

There are 3,800 new short-term public parking spaces near the new west terminal 3,200 new long-term parking spaces on the southwest side of the airport, additional employee parking lots, secured automated people mover system, on-airport public roadways, on-airport service roadways and Southwest cargo area.

The ambition is to make this airport competitive and to futuristically handle passenger throughput over the next two to three decades.

Qatar’s brand new airport, Hamid International Airport (HIA) is to replace Doha International Airport. It is being constructed four kilometres from the existing facility on a 5,400-acre site and will be Qatar’s only international airport.

After completion in 2015, spanning over ten years of construction work, the airport will handle 50 million passengers, two million tons of cargo and 320,000 aircraft landings and take-offs each year.

This is a visionary developmental project, considering that Qatar is a country with 2.169 million population  (2013 figures). Despite its small population and the Qataris being in the region of 278,000, compared to Nigeria’s 170 million popu lation, this smacks of a visionary project with a mind of creating opportunities.

Al Maktoum International at Dubai World Central (DWC) will spend $32 billion on expanding its second airport to handle over 200 million people annually.

The development work would be spread over an area of 56 square kilometers and is expected to take between six and eight years to complete.

Expected to be carried out in two phases, the first phase will include two satellite buildings with a total capacity of 120 million passengers annually. It will also be equipped to accommodate 100 A380 aircraft at any one time.

Cape Town International Airport is owned by Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) and is South Africa’s second-largest airport. The long-term airport plans also incorporate a second and third runway (particularly to accommodate the A380). This R400m project is planned for completion in 2015.

When completed it will help combat air traffic congestion and will also enable the airport to provide adequate take-off and landing slots to meet the projected traffic demand, until 2050.

ACSA has earmarked R10bn ($1.6bn) for the upgrade of Cape Town and Johannesburg airports to accommodate the A380.Thiis work involves additional aircraft parking space, runways and taxiway areas being extended and reinforced and new high-speed exits being built; the project has been called the Airbus Project.

With these few examples, what is our plan and objective for MMIA Lagos by 2050? What plans or strategy do we have to achieve these objectives? Are stakeholders – airlines, passengers and airport users engaged in the planning process?

What’s the experience of the Airport designers? What are the security challenges likely to be faced over the next 10 to 20 years, and what design measures are necessary to cope with these challenges?

There are many strategic issues to consider in building or engaging in airport expansion projects. Aviation Policy makers need to engage stakeholders the more and be more forward thinking. Nigeria needs a friendly and futuristic airport and not the joke that we currently have, despite enormous funds spent to refurbish the airports.