15th June, 2011
The old culture of inefficiency at the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, must give way. The tired-and-empty argument that government-run institutions or agencies can never be run efficiently in Nigeria must be jettisoned.
On 8 and 9 June, passengers at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos State went through an embarrassing moment when water taps ran dry at the countryâ€™s gateway after the water main collapsed in the evening of Tuesday 7 June.
During the crisis, convenience rooms in the facility were filled with human waste and the entire terminal building covered with awful stench.
While most passengers avoided the airportâ€™s toilets, those who were pressed by the call of nature, made use of table water and came along with their tissue paper.
A female traveller and wife of a Nigerian serving Senator almost collapsed in the toilet when she came face to face with a heap of excreta and assailed by heavy stench. She recovered many hours later and alerted the media.
FAAN, which has been run by Richard Aisuebeogun in the last four years, later made a shocking revelation that the water main crumbled because it was built in 1978 and was not serviced or changed for 33 years.
FAAN General Manager, Public Affairs, Mr. Akin Olukunle, who issued the troubling statement, explained that a burst in the 200mm water main was traced to fatigue and pressure of the slumping pipe. We find this revelation preposterous.
This disclosure by FAAN that the agency had to act after the water main burst and grounded activities at airport gives us a hint into how government institutions or agencies have been neglected for decades.
In the past 34 months, FAAN has received at least N30 billion from Maevis Nigeria Limited, its revenue generating concessionaire at the Abuja and Lagos airports alone.
The agency also made hundreds of millions of naira from other 19 airports under its supervision.
The government agency, each year, also receives billions of naira from the Federal Government for infrastructure development, training and salaries of its inefficient staff.
How can FAAN then explain to Nigerians why it has not been able to carry out maintenance or servicing of basic infrastructure such as the water main?
Why should FAAN wait for 33 years for a complete and embarrassing breakdown at the airport before deploying spasmodic problem-solving approach? We find this unwise.
The Murtala Muhammed International Airport, the countryâ€™s busiest airport which generates almost 80 percent of revenue for FAAN, has not seen any major improvement in terms of facelift in the last four years.
The Schiphol international airport in Amsterdam which MMIA was modeled after in 1978 when it was built, has witnessed tremendous improvements over the last decades but MMIA and other 20 airports in the country under FAAN have continued to degenerate to an abysmal level.
It does not have to be this way. Government-run institutions or agencies can be efficient. There are three ways to ensure this happens: The right calibre of people, the right resources and the right attention and lack of corruption must be the hallmarks of the new administration.
President Jonathan must understand that aviation industry is key to a nationâ€™s economic development and the upgrade and maintenance of our facilities at the 21 airports need urgent attention to achieve the desired transformation.