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COLUMNIST, On The Prowl

The Oven Called Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport

Posted: Oct 3, 2015 at 1:56 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

About two years ago, there was wild celebration of the total ‘transformation’ of all the airports and indeed the Aviation sector, in Nigeria, to ‘world class’ standards by the then Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah.

That was one major ‘achievement’ of immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan, despite the fact that many of us who use the airports constantly disproved this claim.

Last Sunday when I flew from Lagos to Abuja for a meeting, it dawned on me how much ‘transformation’ both the Lagos and Abuja airports went through in the last six years. From the departure lounge of the Arik Terminal in Murtala Mohammed local wing, Lagos to the baggage collection hall of the Nnamdi Azikiwe airport, Abuja, the story is the same-painted buildings and less ‘transformation’ in terms of service delivery and the coup de grace is, the air conditioners everywhere you stepped into (unless perhaps the VIP Lounge which I was not privileged to visit), are on recess!

I nearly fainted on my way back the next day, Monday, September 28, 2015. If you think Abuja weather is hot, then you need to step inside the checking-in area of Arik. And after bearing the suffocating heat there, you will be thinking the departure lounge will offer some form of succor. So you practically race up the stairs, hurry through the security check and you will want to go back outside because you really cannot differentiate where is hotter. But you have no choice.

I counted seven Industrial fans, two were out of order and the airport officials at the security check area were magnanimous enough to divert two out of the remaining five functional fans to their work station. So the over 500 passengers in that large hall had to share three fans since the giant air conditioners have since turned antique pieces, occupying valuable space like matter.

Some smart passengers were seen clustered round the three working fans at different positions in the hall, all struggling to get a fair share of the now hot air they were dishing out. Some of us were not as lucky as all the chairs around the working fans have been taken. So we were left breathing through the mouth and nose, remnants of the air passed from the lucky ones around the working fans, while wiping thick sweat beads from brows at regular intervals.

Then the worse happened. At exactly 2.29pm, the lights went out. It took the person at the power house five minutes to put on the generator, a period many of us were already gasping because both the people enjoying the hot air from the fan and the unlucky ones now had to rely on the general air which was not enough. Shortly after the lights came back, it went out again and for 19 minutes, we were left sweating and cursing softly under our breath. One passenger dressed in a thick coat complete with a tie and almost knee length boots was the person I pitied most. I stole fleeting glances at the man sweating profusely some few feet from me. He opened his bag and searched frantically for something to use as an emergency hand fan. He got one, a tiny piece of paper. It was no good but he used it nonetheless.

I was the happiest person when my flight was called. That departure lounge is more or less an oven! The person that will be appointed Minister of Aviation by President Muhammadu Buhari would have a lot on his/her plate.

So much for the ‘transformation’ of the aviation sector!

On The Prowl with Justin Akpovi-Esade, ogbuus@yahoo.com