EVER since most of our airports were built in the 1970s and 1980s, successive federal governments never seriously thought of modernising and expanding them to meet international standards and best practices. The worst affected were the domestic wing of the two major airports in Abuja and Lagos. The airports were a sorry sight to behold despite the fact that the aviation ministry got a hefty budget every year. Over the years, most Nigerians who have travelled through the country’s airports had to endure their heinous look and the resultant inconveniences. It seemed as if past governments did not care about the poor image the first port of entry portrayed to foreign visitors and investors coming into the country. In addition, the aviation sector has been bedevilled with myriads of problems including inadequate landing and take-off equipment. The problem became very embarrassing when the plane carrying Jerry Rawlings, former president of Ghana, had landing difficulties at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, in 2011 because, according to him, there was no equipment to enable the plane land at night. Besides, his plane was forced to return to Lagos for clearance before it finally returned to Enugu to risk landing at the airport. An exasperated Rawlings, who was flying to Nigeria for the burial of late Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, former Biafran warlord, vented his spleen when he spoke at the ceremony pointing out the precarious state of affairs of our airports.
In the past decade, the sector has recorded devastating air disasters including the most recent Dana plane crash in which all the passengers and crew members died on board June last year. Apart from inadequate landing and take-off equipment, the airports were bedevilled with dilapidated facilities including malfunctioning toilets and air conditioners which had packed up over the years, non- spacious check-in halls usually crowded with travellers who had to endure agonising hours of sweating to check in or board the aircraft, and stuffy passages that led to the gang way through which travellers enter and exit aircraft. In fact, coming and going out of Nigerian airports were, indeed, a very unpleasant experience for most people in the country. Yet our leaders turned a blind eye although sometimes they made haphazard attempts to repair the facilities which usually do not last long before breaking down. Against this background, it was then a welcome relief that the present administration had thought it wise to do something about the sordid state of affairs in the aviation sector, where at present, it seems that some changes are taking place. But there is still a long way to go to effectively transform and tackle the challenges of the aviation sector. The editorial board of Realnews has noted the happenings in the aviation sector and decided to take a deeper look at what is going on. It’s findings are captured in this week’s cover story entitled: A New Dawn in Aviation. It was crafted by Olu Ojewale, general editor. Enjoy reading it.
— Feb. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT