By Wole Shadare
Last week, Nigerians were jolted by a survey carried out by SleepingInAirports, an internationally respected travel website. The firm in conjunction with Cable News Network, CNN conducted a survey asking travellers to rate their airport experiences based on the services and facilities available within the terminal, cleanliness, customer service, comfort and their overall airport experience.
In its 2015 Airport Survey, the travel website reported that while Changi International Airport, Singapore, was named the best, the Port Harcourt International Airport, in Rivers State, Nigeria was named the worst international airport in the world.
Infact, this was about the biggest story in the aviation sector and one that came to many as a big shock. To many discerning minds and for those who take the tortuous road of travelling by air to most cities in Nigeria, it only goes to confirm the obvious that Nigerian airports are in decrepit shape.
It also brought to the fore over N500 billion allegedly spent on airports remodelling. Not a few believe that the project was a scam on many tax payers.
We should not get it twisted. The airport remodelling embarked upon by the Federal Government three years ago was quite laudable. Many of the aerodromes needed facelift or outright overhauling considering the fact that many of the international terminals were built over 30 years ago and have outlived their usefulness or lifespan.
But what is unforgiveable is the fact that Nigerians are yet to see the benefit of such investment if our airports are still rated among the worst in the world.
A visit to many of the airports leaves one in utter dismay of what such huge amount of fund was done with the type of shoddy, amateurish work that was carried out.
The planned aerotropolise project under a sacked Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah is nothing but a sham and a typical example of how not to do aerotropolis.
The acclaimed ‘Father’ and leading developer of the ‘aerotropolis concept, Dr. John Kasarda, a professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship and director of the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan Flagler Business School will shake his head in utter disbelief of what Oduah and FAAN were trying to replicate in Nigeria under a purposeless aerotropolis. FAAN was driven into this mess because of the overbearing influence and interference of Aviation Ministry/Minister on areas they do not know anything about.
Aside the Ministry of Aviation and Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN which should be apologising to Nigerians for the shame that was brought on the nation, some section of the media, especially, Aviation Correspondents should be held responsible for supporting the Shenanigans and massive corruption that pervaded the entire aviation sector between 2010 and 2014.
It was a period common sense took flight and replaced with connivance that helped to bring the sector to its present sorry state.
The Port-Harcourt International airport is ranked fourth busiest airport in Nigeria behind Lagos, Abuja and Kano. Not only is the airport porous, passenger facilitation is done inside canopies. You can be forgiven if you say that the terminal under construction appears abandoned.
Users of the terminal have had to complain about unpleasant and unhelpful staff, alleged corruption, a severe lack of seating, broken air-conditioning and the fact that the arrivals hall is inside a tent.
One would expect whoever is coming as Minister of Aviation or Minister of State for Aviation will quickly settle down to first of all complete all the terminal projects that appear abandoned, galvanise stakeholders to moving the sector forward to guarantee safety, security and help to breathe life into Nigeria’s airlines that are going through crises.
Once this is done, only then can we begin to talk about the change that we all yearn for.