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Traffic gridlock worsen access to Lagos airport, flight services

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• Passengers groan, patronise Okada to board planes

The pains of commuting in and out of the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos have reached an unbearable limit – no thanks to traffic gridlock that is now a daily ritual on the corridor.
 
The narrow artery that bridges both the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) and the two local terminals inwards Ikeja, is now perpetually clogged and nearly impassable during the afternoon and evening peak periods.
 
With end-to-end travel-time of 10 minutes now one-hour, local and international passengers are more at risk of missing their flights. The pragmatic alternative before them is to patronise commercial motorcyclists, also known as Okada, who freely ply against traffic as if to worsen an already bad situation.

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Indeed, Lagos is not new to gridlocks. With a population of over 20 million residents surrounded by overstretched infrastructure as engineered by poor planning and lawlessness, there is a little option to the seething statewide commotion.

But the knock-on effects are fast catching up with the airport corridor that has for years retained rare sanity.
 
“There is no guarantee of free access anymore,” says Al-Amin, a cab driver. The driver, with about four years experience in the access route, admitted that occasional build-ups were not unusual in the past.
 
“Maybe an accident or traffic-light delays at junctions; you could see small traffic. Now, (traffic) it has become big and an everyday thing. Between the international airport and Ikeja, I used to do 15 trips then. Now, I will thank God if I see eight trips. The annoying part is that you will not know what caused the traffic,” the driver said in frustration.
 
A recent visit to the airport said it all. For a start, inbound international passengers could from the MMIA arrival hall feel the chaos that looms ahead.

Waiting in front of the arrival hall is an ugly blend of taxi drivers, touts and pickpockets, who are practically falling over one another in a stampede just to offer passengers cab service. Having a pre-arranged exit plan does not help either, as passengers have to sweat it through a distance to reach the airport’s dedicated car park.
 
A traveller may heave a sigh of relief on approaching the toll plaza, but few metres ahead is the beginning of the traffic gridlock that stretches all the way to Ikeja.
 
The Guardian observed that passengers at the risk of missing flights starter alighting and walking into the waiting arms of Okada riders, to help them cover the distance, at a cost of N500 per person. International passenger and a suitcase pay N1000 for the service.

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Recall that the Lagos State government prohibited Okada from some of the existing 9000 roads and one of them is the airport access road.

“But I no dey send anybody,” says a motorcyclist, who daily makes as much as N15, 000 from shuttling restive passenger against traffic on the corridor.
 
A passenger, Henry Etannibi, who was at the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) to catch a 6 p.m. said it took him 53 minutes to get to the airport from the Air Force base – about 800 metres away from the terminal.
 
Etannibi had left his Isolo resident four hours before the flight. “I missed my flight the last time, so I have learnt my lesson. The traffic is just sickening. Having such gridlock around international airport says a lot about who we are and how much we value time. Does it mean that no one is seeing this as a problem that can be solved?
 
“It is so bad that even foreigners are mounting on motorcycles just to catch connecting flights at another terminal within the airport. Small train service would have solved the problem. What if there is an emergency and someone needed to be in the hospital? Would the ambulance speed against oncoming traffic just like some military and VIP guys did the last time? Sometimes I wonder, why are we always travelling in reverse gear in this part of the world?”

Indeed, the airport built in the 70s was designed with the access road to service the three terminals alone. Stakeholders are of the view that opening the road to the public, via the toll plaza and another entry at the NUATE/Mafoluku-end, opened it to the general public.

A former commandant of the Lagos Airport, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), said the airport’s “private road” was opened up for commercial reasons, and “I warned the authorities against its security implication in the 90s when I came in.”

“There are so many things wrong with the access road and it was when they opened up the road that all these problems, including security breaches, started in the airport.

“The Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) lost that service road to the public when they put toll gates; one opened into Bisam and the second one at the present location.”

Ojikutu advised FAAN to close the road to the public by first removing the present toll gate to the public road from Oshodi-Apapa expressway.

Secondly, FAAN should extend the perimetre and security fence to block out the road from Bisam incurring into the airport service road. “I have shared these with the management of FAAN,” he said.
 
A civil engineer, Akinola Kazeem, in an alternative solution, said the road is apparently too narrow to service modern airport.

Kazeem urged the Federal Government and FAAN to start considering either expansion or a transit alternative within the airport to facilitate quick movement of passengers, “such as we all see in other parts of the world.”‘Why


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