The story fits a nutshell.
Nigeria built a billion-dollar airport terminal that is too small for most of the aircraft it was intended to house, resulting in underutilisation and a facility unfit for use or purpose.
The terminal at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos was a much-anticipated project.
Designed to be a state-of-the-art facility that would improve the efficiency and comfort of air travel in Nigeria, it is a replacement for the poorly-maintained 45-year-old Terminal 1.
But plagued by design problems, the terminal has been underused.
The most serious design problem is the lack of apron space.
The apron is the area where aircraft park and taxi.
The new terminal has only enough apron space to accommodate small and medium-sized aircraft.
This means that large aircraft, such as the Boeing 747 and Airbus A380, cannot use the terminal.
As a result, many airlines, mostly the European and American, have had to stay at the older Terminal 1, the eyesore, which has more apron space.
Another design flaw is the lack of connectivity between the new terminal and the other terminals at the airport.
It means that passengers who are connecting flights have to go through immigration and security checks again, which can be a time-consuming and frustrating process.
Designed to be a state-of-the-art facility that would improve the efficiency and comfort of air travel in Nigeria, it is a replacement for the poorly-maintained 45-year-old Terminal 1
The airport terminal, initially planned to be constructed at a cost of $100 million borrowed from China, is estimated to have cost more than $1.07billion to deliver poorly.
Instead of measuring twice and cutting once, Nigeria measured once and will now have to cut twice.
And cutting twice will be expensive. We may have to sing “thy help we seek, master China” again.
The terminal was supposed to be a symbol of Nigeria’s coming of age, but it has become a symbol of our problems; the evidence of our gross incompetency.
Not even lower animals with tiny brains commit the kind of errors that our leaders have foisted in their ineptitude and carelessness.
I have rodents and birds around my house and I have carefully observed that they make good measurements.
They are better engineers than those who built that airport terminal.
Birds build their nests with doors that are wide enough for entrance and exit.
I have never seen a bird trapped on its way into the nest.
Chipmunks, mouse-like creatures who share my premises as they feed on my little vegetable garden have dug channels all around the yard.
Their holes are well sized for the creatures. The rodents never park outside their holes.
In the summer, I also see wasps, bees and hornets frequently.
These little creatures are amazing planners and engineers. Their hives are always a snug-fit.
But in God’s own Nigeria, the land of some of the smartest humans, we built an airport that is too small for the types of aircraft that land every day at our airport.
We have managed to turn a signature project into a humorous story.
When I read the report, I couldn’t even laugh. I was stunned.
Before it was “completed”, I drove past the terminal.
It was as beautiful as the Murtala Mohammed International when I first saw it in 1980.
It gave me a feeling of pride to see a new modern terminal, lined up against the posh Hilton named Legend Hotel nearby, and the new road and bridge leading to it. Here was Nigeria emerging from decades-long slump and decay, I reasoned.
I was wrong.
The original design dated back to 2013; and while it took several years to complete the terminal, the required modification either went undetected or was simply ignored.
So, we ended up with a lemon.
With the airport terminal largely idle, the new Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, decided to apply the usual Nigerian solution to the problem by forcing movement.
He ordered all foreign airlines to immediately relocate to the new terminal.
The government’s tactical plan was to provide transit buses to move international passengers to and from where wide-body aircraft are parked at the old terminal.
Keyamo gave an excuse: the forceful evacuation is necessary for the renovation of the old MMIA terminal.
“The major complaints have been with the old terminal.
That place is an eyesore to Nigerians coming into the country. The lifts are not working.
The passages are unwelcoming and there is no air conditioner. We have the new terminal but it cannot be used. It was designed without provision for big planes!
“I don’t know what happened and I have been asking that question that makes them not have avio bridges that would lead to the big planes.
Sixty per cent of revenue for FAAN comes from the Lagos airport. Beyond that, Lagos airport is the gateway and the first impression into the country.”
Although Keyamo was an executive in the Buhari administration, which delivered the sham of a project, he was not in charge of aviation.
He was silent about the unforgivable mistake of an administration in which he was a senior participant.
What Keyamo would not admit, we already know. It has never been a secret to experts the project was poorly planned.
A principal managing partner at Avaero Capital Partners, an advisory and consultancy services firm for aviation and aerospace companies in Africa, Sindy Foster revealed:
At the opening of the dysfunctional terminal in March 2022, Buhari was eloquent about the completion of the facility as a befitting replacement of the old terminal
“It was clear that there would be space constraints before the terminal was even built. You can’t just situate a terminal anywhere you like. That’s what master plans are for. I’m not even sure if anyone is surprised at this point. I’m tired of Nigeria being the laughing stock of the world. We always know what to do here, but we struggle to do things properly. The workaround culture is the dominant culture, not the pursuit of excellence and high standards.”
Former President Mohammadu Buhari had an unhealthy penchant for unveiling projects that had not been completed.
Examples are the new government airline, Nigeria Air, and the Dangote Refinery.
At the opening of the dysfunctional terminal in March 2022, Buhari was eloquent about the completion of the facility as a befitting replacement of the old terminal.
Although the new facility has a capacity for more than 30 airlines, it has operated far below its potential.
One year later, only Air Peace, Asky and African World Airline (AWA), South African Airlines, Air Côte d’Ivoire, Air Senegal, and Royal Air Maroc have moved.
The design problems with the new terminal are a reminder of the importance of proper planning and execution when it comes to major infrastructure projects.
The current government should learn from this experience and avoid a repeat.
In addition to the design problems, the new terminal has also been criticized for its high cost.
The $1.07 billion it cost is a significant amount of money for a developing country like Nigeria.
The high cost of the terminal has been attributed to a number of factors, including corruption, mismanagement, and poor planning.
Nigeria will never become a major economic power if we keep executing like quacks and amateurs. Neither can it be successful when corruption is approved as a way of national life.
Although I do not expect this to happen: I still ask that the current administration do a retrospective with the intention of bringing those who implemented the project to account.
We need to know how the fantastically-constructed error was engineered.
Lessons must be learnt. And apologies must be made to Nigerians who funded for this rubbish.