Sunday, September 15, 2013

Dear Aviation Minister

Dear Aviation Minister,

I was at the International airport (if we can call it that) in Lagos last month, and I can’t say anything has improved since the last time I passed through. There are still a lot of hangers-on albeit dressed in customs/immigration uniforms asking travellers irrelevant questions like – “Where are you travelling to?”, “Where do you work?”, “Are you carrying any money?” As if these senseless questions aren't annoying enough, they waste your precious time flipping through your passport to ascertain the number of visas in it. Is this what they're paid to do?

When officers spend their time asking irrelevant questions, one shouldn't expect them to be mindful of their actual duties. For instance, I was informed my visa hadn't been verified at the boarding gate, even though I had passed the immigration officer whose duty it was to do just that; I was made to wait for the entire queue to pass through the gate before being attended to. The delay was irksome for obvious reasons, but also because all the seats at the gate had been taken by the time I was granted access. As an aside, can more seats be added to accommodate travellers?

Incidentally, why can't more luggage scanners be installed? I'd rather have those than people violating my suitcase with their hands while asking, “Anything for me?” In addition, why inconvenience travellers donning slippers and sandals by asking they remove their footwear, even though their feet are in full glare of the public. Isn't this a waste of time?

For the past 2-3 years or even more, Murtala Muhammed Airport has been undergoing a series of renovation, but I'm confused as to what renovations are being made: carousels are still rickety, the airport hasn't been expanded to adequately accommodate daily traffic, and there’s that one little escalator leading to the ground floor, which you'd be lucky to find working. Essentially, what I saw last year, and two years before that, still remains, so what improvements are being made?

I could advise that you travel the globe to get some inspiration from modern airports, but that would be redundant since Nigerian ministers always have reasons to travel abroad. So my question is this: what’s holding you back from actually doing a good job? Why are you short-changing Nigerians? Is it really that difficult to summon a group of engineers and architects to design and build a 21st century airport? 

I beseech you, on behalf of Nigerians, to do what’s necessary. Stop slapping on Band-Aid, because it’s pretty obvious that’s not working, and transform the airport into what’s expected of an oil-rich country – Dubai airport anyone?

Yours sincerely,

A disgruntled Nigerian citizen.