By VICTOR NZE
Within one week that the Acting President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo paid a surprise visit to the malfuctioning Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Ikeja, Lagos, the flagship facility of the country got up and running.
Acting President Professor Yemi Osibanjo, last Thursday, February 23, paid an unscheduled visit to MMIA in company of Minister of State, Senator Hadi Sirika catching Ministry of Aviation agencies and parastatals and their staff at the airport off guard.
Osinbajo who was in Lagos for other engagements took the time out to move round the airport for an on-the-spot assessment of facilities and work done and those not done.
While at the terminal, the Acting President and the Aviation Ministers were conducted round the travelator and three conveyor belts by the General Manger, (Mechanical), FAAN, Engr. Ephraim Nwodo, who explained the workings of the facilities to his guest ,who was anxious to see the facilities.
For many weeks now, many travellers have faced untold hardship and discomfort ranging from incessant blackouts, malfunctioning carousel, toilet facilities to frequent breakdown of the air conditioning system, and many more which all fell on deaf ears of the managers of the facility, the biggest on the West African sub-region.
However, all that changed within one week as not only was there a mass sack of six out of initially reported eight directors of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and a further straight order to the top hierarchy to deploy to the troubled spots and fix the problems at the airport.
Though, Ministry of Aviation has since debunked any link between the turnaround in attitude of the NCAA to the Acting President’s visit, it remains to be seen how that visit did not expedite action on repair and fixing of malfunctioning equipment which the MMIA is now witnessing.
A statement made available by Deputy Director Press for the Minister, Mr. James Odaudu dismissed any links while explaining that Osinbajo’s visit was only to assess the state of facilities at the Murtala Muhammed international Airport (MMIA) and to see possible areas of immediate attention.
“It must be made clear that the link between the two events has no basis, as the reorganization in the agencies is part of an ongoing process to reposition them to properly and adequately carry out their regulatory mandates. “
“Recall that this administration, at inception, placed Aviation among top priority areas that would be reorganized and repositioned to contribute more to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product and develop as a sub-regional hub for air transportation. It therefore amounts to an error of judgment to attribute the reorganization efforts to the visit of the Acting President to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos. ”
Immediately after Osinbajo’s visit, the Federal Government, Friday, issued a memo sacking all eight directors of the NCAA which was later amended to six with two of those letters reportedly issued in error.
Alhaji Adamu Abdullahi (Director of Consumer Protection), Capt. Ayodele Sasegbon (Director of General Aviation) were the two survivors of the what has come to be known as the ‘aviation tsunami.’
According to the General Manager, Public Affairs, NCAA, Mr. Sam Adurogboye, those affected by the sack are now, Alhaji Salawu Ozigi (Director of Finance and Accounts), Barr. Aba Ejembi (Director of Administration), Engr. Benedict Adeyileka (Director of Airworthiness), Mr. Justus Wariya (Director of Air Transport Regulation), and Mr. Austin-Amadi Ifeanyi (Director of Human Resources), and Captain Sidi (Director of Training).
As if that was not enough fallout of the Osinbajo’s surprise visit, Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Engineer Saleh Dunoma, same Friday, read the riot act to engineers of the agency that all equipment at the MMIA must function within the shortest possible time.
He gave this directive to the engineers and the airport manager after inspecting the facilities at the nation’s premier airport including the escalators, conveyor belts and all the toilets the FAAN boss in company of FAAN Director of Commercials and Business Development, Mr. Sadiku Abdulkadir Rafindadi and other top management.
“There are few things we need to fix immediately. I say immediately; immediately means immediately. This is a Presidential directive. We will not wasting time and that is why you see us working on a Saturday. We will still work tomorrow. We just have to come up with strategic implementation plans so that we don’t distrupt operations. This is key to us,” Dunoma told journalists after the tour.
According to Dunoma, “there are some few mechanical equipment like the travelators that needed to be fixed. Other areas, according to him, are the toilet facilities and some other external facilities that affect what is functional inside.
“We have a contract on the chillers. Funding has been a problem for us but we are pushing to see that it is fixed”.
For aviation sector observers, the NCAA as well as FAAN cannot wave away insinuations bothering on links between the Acting President’s visit and the sudden attention to issues which travellers, traders, staff of offices at the airport complex had been complaining about for months without solution.