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Reproachful power outage at Lagos airport

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Murtala Muhammed International Airport


Another embarrassing power outage at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos the other day, which left passengers stranded for hours, is yet another sad commentary on public service in the country. It is a failure of governance that should be noticed by the authorities in the country.
Besides, the development has again raised some questions on the enthusiasm once generated about ease of doing business governance process Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo has been promoting.

No doubt, it may be unimaginable how traumatic this development could have been to travelers to and from Nigeria – about 20 years into unbroken democracy in Africa’s most populous nation. Something should be done, urgently, to remove this reproach.

The recent experience was not the first time that such had happened. That this disgusting experience continues to occur shows that no lessons have been learnt from the previous occurrences. And, of course, the frequent power outage is a metaphor for the poor and decadent infrastructure across the country.

According to reports, for unexplained reasons, passengers were stranded as power outage hit the Lagos International Airport on November 14, 2018. The passengers were kept in the dark for hours, which made the anxious crowd, who could not proceed with their boarding procedures to become rowdy and agitated.

According to reports, the airport management could not switch over to any alternative power source they claimed to have at the international airport in the nation’s commercial capital, Lagos. The same Lagos is being advertised as the economic capital of West Africa.

In the confusion that ensued, officials reportedly took foreigners among the passengers to another section of the Airport that had electricity. The other frustrated local passengers questioned why such a discriminatory treatment was meted to them even in their country. It took hours before power was restored to the airport for normal operations to continue.

A lot has been said about the deplorable state of facilities at Nigeria’s airports in general and principal international gateways in particular.
Not too long ago, the Senate issued a damning indictment on Nigeria’s aviation to buttress the decrepit state of our airports. That report corroborated perception that Nigeria’s aviation industry has not been among the best in the world. For instance, in 2014, the survey by The Guide to Sleeping in Airports, a website that documents information on airports and the people who sleep in them rated three Nigerian airports among the worst in Africa.

While the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, was then rated 10th worst in Africa, the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja and Port Harcourt International Airport, Port Harcourt, were ranked the seventh and sixth worst airports on the continent respectively.Nigeria’s international airports fell behind Khartoum International Airport, Sudan (first); Kinshasa N’djili International Airport, DR Congo (second); Tripoli International Airport, Libya (third); Dar-es-Salam Julius Nyerere International Airport, Tanzania (fourth); Luanda Quatro de Fevereiro International Airport, Angola (fifth); N’Djamena International Airport, Chad (eight) and Accra Kotoka International Airport, Ghana (ninth). That ranking placed Nigeria’s principal gateway airport in Lagos as the worst in Africa at the bottom tenth position.

The assessments were based on the stories (like the power outage) submitted by travellers as regards their experiences. These ranged from dirty floors and conveniences to the regular requests for bribes. Travellers were unimpressed with the airports that made it in the worst category in Africa. That even gave the results high degree of accuracy. No doubt, the frequent power outages would worsen Nigeria’s position. This is embarrassing to citizens who should be celebrating about 20 years of dividends of democracy in the country.

It is sad that little has been done to remedy the situation at our airports, as the power failure has aptly revealed.There is little doubt that work begun by the former Aviation Minister, Princess Stella Oduah, to give a facelift to the airports stalled since she left.Nor have there been clear reports of what were not addressed in her strategic plans. This is not the time for blame game. It is time to report progress so far.

Attempts to concession the airports as a way to improving them have been enmeshed in controversies. That too suggests official tardiness. Instead of facing all these strategic infrastructure issues we have had plans to establish national carriers. That too has not materialized. Of recent, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN, has been battling with Maevis Ltd, an integrated automated service provider, and Bi-Courtney Ltd, over the concession of Lagos Airport MMA2. FAAN said the agreements were skewed in favour of the concessionaires and to the detriment of government. What has been gained in mere witch-hunt and contract execution and obedience to court orders?

The ugly state of affairs explains why, not too long ago, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) reportedly approved the concessioning of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos to private operators with the hope that the situation could improve service delivery.

It is not clear how far the idea is being pursued, especially, after it was reported that Middle East investors had shown interest to take over the airports.

Without doubt, our airports are in bad shape and that is what the various damning reports simply reinforced. The challenges plaguing our airports should be tackled systematically in the national interest and the travelling public.

While power failure is a general problem in Nigeria, constant reports of power outage at such a critical facility as international airport should be embarrassing. The authorities should approach airport electricity differently. What is more, there should be dedicated power grid to such national security outfits. In the main, aviation authorities in Nigeria should brace up to day to nip this kind of embarrassment in the bud. It is an inter-ministerial public policy issue that should not be debated by citizens anymore. Governments are in place to solve problems and failure to do so will be reported as a huge failure. It is not politics. It is governance. And so some public officers should be held to account for failing to address such an issue of urgent pubic interest.


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