This Unfriendly MM2 Airport
THE Murtala Mohammed Airport Ikeja, otherwise known as MM2 airport has to be without any doubt the most unfriendly airport in Nigeria. It is of course needless to compare it with international standards as it does not come anywhere close and is consequently a waste of time and space. So, you have a flight for 6:45am on a Monday morning at the airport.
You would, depending on where you live, typically wake up at about 4:30am to plan for the trip. An early rise will take into consideration the fact that Lagos never sleeps (so traffic can start as early as 5a.m), a lorry would have broken down on the road and indeed all types of unforeseen hazards. As you approach the airport, you get a sense of how not-at-all-user-friendly the airport is designed to be.
There are security officials at the gate who check ostensibly for bombs and other dangerous weapons that could pose a threat to security. Ordinarily, this should not pose any problems as it can be argued that it is being done for safety reasons. However, what is intriguing is that the security checks are done only in the early morning prior to flights that leave before 7a.m. The security personnel are not at the gate from 8:00am.
The gates are flung wide open for bombers to drive in unchecked and unattended to by the security officials. Additionally, even during the early morning checks, depending on if you have a police patrol van riding behind you, you are given a customary salute and told to drive in.
As part of the checks, they have torches and you are required to put on your inner car lights. I guess if you look harmless you do not need to open your boot.
It is also not fathomable to have a cutlass, matchet or other similar type weapons inside your car so the car itself is not searched. It is only the booth that is searched. And by search, I mean, you come down, open your boot and close it almost immediately.
As these checks continue, the line-up slowly starts to build up and in most cases we end up with a gridlock. But they always appear unperturbed and tell you that they are carrying out their duty. After all of this and your car passes the bomb test, you finally make your way to yet another endless line-up in the hall.
Depending however on the airline you are flying with, you may be spared the angst of a long queue. You are given your boarding pass most times by very discourteous and unprofessional staff manning the front desk.
Ah, did I mention Hafsat — the extremely rude lady at the Aero front ticketing desk? It is doubtful if the lifts at MM2 were programmed to work. I think they were just built as part of the 17th century aesthetics that make up the airport.
Surely, this edifice known as MM2 should not and cannot qualify as a modern archetypical structure in today’s aviation world. I apologize. The intention is not to dwell on the superficial splendour of MM2. So, your boarding pass collected, you go up the escalator to be screened. Another modern-day horror. The line-up snakes up to the foot of the escalator.
They have recently installed chip devices that allow you scan the barcode on your boarding pass prior to going through the screening area. And in typical Nigerian fashion, this modern-day technology is being used to dampen the entire travel process rather than enhance it. Even worse is the reaction you get from the officials.
I asked one of them why the whole process is so slow and frustrating and his response was as exasperating as the wait. “It is a Monday, madam. This is what we see”.
I have heard other officials say, “not all the machines are working”, and “some of the officials are yet to resume”. Some passengers are, however, not so unlucky.
You can have a police escort carry your bags (seems most of our police officers are not too different from house assistants these days) and you pass through the ordinary, unfortunate Nigerians on the queue or if you have ready cash to tip the officials, you can be taken straight to the red carpet area. However, we are not yet done with all the unfriendly booby traps.
The actual scanning of luggage and travellers now starts. These set of officials have constituted themselves to modern day beggars. The only difference is that they do not have a bowl with them so we can drop their offering or is it collection now? “Ah, fine girl. God don bless you finish. Just find me something for coffee”.
“You must buy me this gold wey you dey wear o! Oya, if you no fit, just find something for tea. At all, at all, naim bad pass”. These are just a few of the money-eliciting rhetoric used to collect money from travellers.
I have often argued that you can carry pretty much anything in your hand luggage and pass it through the scanning machine. The fact that the machine detects any forbidden travel item does not necessarily mean you would not travel with it.
After the initial gragra of –“go and check this deodorant in, please we do not allow these things”, depending on who is involved, a little coffee tip would most definitely allow your roll-on to finally find its way back into the warmth of your luggage with a stern warning to “ please make sure you check it in next time.” • Onagoruwa, legal practitioner, lives in Lagos. By this time the long lines temporarily over, you finally enter into the concourse while waiting for the locally-oyibo-acquired-accent announcers to announce your flight.
It is important that you pay attention because you may miss your flight not recognizing the city being announced. In some cases, there is really no need for an announcement. The airline officials either give a signal to their more easily recognizable passengers that the flight is ready for boarding and as if on cue, we stand up and follow sheepishly.
But wait a minute; did I say anything about the heat in the concourse area? The place is unbearably hot. Not all the air conditioners work. Even more are urgently needed. It is, simply put- a sticky situation. You cannot but be flustered at this stage. But perhaps what is more important is the commercialization of the area.
What does it really matter if Nigerians sweat a little before boarding the plane? We complain a lot abi? After all, there are lengthy queues in airports abroad. I still am not sure why the inane reason that something also is wrongly done elsewhere is good enough justification for us to either copy the practise wholesale or use it as a yardstick for unsatisfactory behaviour in the execution of one’s duty. With my litany of complaints, we are yet to board the plane.
God help you if your boarding gate is either 7 or 8. The escalators going downstairs do not work. The climb down the stairs is tedious and painful. I feel sorry for elderly people who have to climb down with their hand luggage. Ditto for sick people.
What would it take for the escalators to work? Surely the levies for cars parked in the parking area can and should be able to get the escalators working. It appears most things in Nigeria are designed just to add stress to simple everyday living. The simplest of things are often made to look complex and mind-boggling.
Perhaps we need to set up a panel of inquiry to publish a white report on the findings in respect of the unworkable escalators. The buses to convey you to the foot of the aircraft do not have air conditioners.
Misery is yours if you are ferried in the smaller type buses that make it impossible for you to get into them without crouching. When finally you get to the feet of the aircraft, come down from the bus, identify your luggage and enter into the plane, you are exhausted!! And the journey is yet to begin. Most planes do not have the cooling system turned on until just before take-off.
All this and many more horrible conditions constitute the real make-up of travelling through the Murtala Mohammed Airport2. • Onagoruwa, legal practitioner, lives in Lagos.