Struggling Aviation Sector, Deplorable Airports Still A Disgrace To Nigeria

Struggling Aviation Sector, Deplorable Airports Still A Disgrace To Nigeria

Writing for, Japheth Omojuwa says current condition of one of Nigeria's most paramount and busiest airports, the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, leaves much to be desired. Even with recent renovations and visible improvements, it dulls in comparison with its African "counterparts". To make reinvigoration of the Nigerian aviation sector possible, Nigerians should stop accepting failings as the norm, Mr. Omojuwa maintains.


In November 2013, while on a short visit to Nigeria, one wrote about the squalid Lagos airport. The piece, together with the loads of reactions it generated, made news the following day. In March 2015, it looks like a lot of challenges the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) previously faced have been solved. Still, the Lagos airport is light years away from offering a world-class travel experience. Fifteen months on, the old car park remains exactly the same: the current pathway from the new car park to the airport proper gets flooded when it rains.

However, I’d say the main issue with the Lagos airport is not infrastructure-related but is more about the process of trying to board your flight.

If we say the Lagos airport is far from offering a good travel experience, it is also worth mentioning that four federal airports alone (out of twenty), MMIA included, account for 80% of overall traffic. Sixteen other airports are mostly dormant.

Making comparisons is helpful. Nigerians, who have come to see MMIA failings as the norm, will at least appreciate what obtains elsewhere and then place such against the experience offered by the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, and others apart from Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kaduna.

The last time one traveled through the Lagos airport, just over a week ago, passengers got caught in the rain and were soaking while they tried to pass their luggage through the scanner right at the entry to the airport's lobby. That should never happen. We make these things look like only Nigerians use the airport, which would makes it okay since Nigerians have come to see such anomalies as the norm. But that is not the case: nationals from other countries use our airports, too. Some may have come to not expecting anything worthwhile in terms of travel experience in Nigeria, but would it be wrong to prove otherwise for them to only have something positive to say about their experience? Do we need a budget to make this happen?

You will only need to travel as far as Ethiopia to see that things can actually be better. On arrival at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, after you go through immigration clearance and luggage collection, people will most likely approach offering help, ready to call your hotel or contact person. If you are a citizen of Nigeria who has gotten used to people doing their job and still asking to be tipped, you'd be forgiven for thinking, as I did last year, that these folks would eventually ask you for money. I would have paid willingly because a service was offered: I used a phone. I asked how much the service cost, I was genuinely shocked when the woman said she was “only doing her job”. That is an Ethiopian experience I will never forget. It is the reason why, whenever I visit Ethiopia, I always arrive with a smile.

Should I compare infrastructure at the Ethiopia airport in Addis Ababa with ours?

Many Nigerians travel through that airport in Addis Ababa because of Ethiopian Airlines, because of its 79 international destinations, as of May 2014. The airline, which started operations in 1946, is one of the biggest Ethiopian brands the country is offering to the world. At the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, I have heard countless Nigerians rant about how Ethiopia could have that for an airport while Nigeria continues to wallow in mediocrity. Mind you, there is nothing special about this airport of reference.

There are more private jets parked at the Abuja airport than there are functioning commercial planes parked in the whole Nigeria at any point in time. When Ethiopia was going to host African billionaires as the African Union looked to raise money for their Ebola response, Ethiopia struggled with providing parking space for all the (less than) ten private jets at the airport. They had to make do with a military base. They had issues with space, but only because the airport was indeed busy with commercial flights.

Now, the Abuja airport houses some 40 private jets at a point in time – I counted on two different occasions – while commercial wings of our airports continue to be as dry as the Sahara with few international destinations on offer.

Travel to Nairobi, visit Kigali, land at Accra with its small airport. I need not mention OR Tambo in Johannesburg because it may be too far a comparison. I’m not even starting on aviation giants like the United States, the United Kingdom, or even the United Arab Emirates. You are likely to have a better travel experience anywhere else in the aforementioned African countries than you are to have at the MMIA in Lagos. The Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja offers a much better travel experience than Lagos… but Lagos is Nigeria’s primary port of entry. Priorities.

One The Punch report from March 2013 said at least 42 private jets land at the Lagos airport daily; and the number of luxury planes owners has been growing ever since. We’d need to build new airports for that purpose alone. On the other hand, Ethiopia has advanced plans to build a new airport in Addis Ababa because, with well over 150 commercial flights every day and a 22% growth in passenger traffic, the current airport is “overstretched”.

The Minister of Aviation Mr Osita Chidoka and whoever succeeds him must look at Nigeria’s aviation sector and commit to truly transforming it. The potentials for growth are too immense for us to toy with.

Mr. Omojuwa is a respected Nigerian social media expert, columnist and contributor.

The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of


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