The manager of South African Airways, one of the continent’s largest airlines, condemned the decrepit state of Nigeria’s airports while addressing aviation journalists in Lagos on Thursday.
Mr. Ohis Ehimiaghe, SAA regional manager for North, West and Central Africa, described the nation’s airports, especially the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), as the worst in the three regions he manages.
One target of his criticism was the state of the washrooms at MMIA, saying that their poor conditions could lead to public health problems.
“Some of the facilities at the airports have completely collapsed and naturally irritate normal and rational passengers. For instance, if you decide to use the washroom facilities, your hormone system will definitely have challenges,” Mr. Ehimiaghe said.
He further criticized the security agents at MMIA for their harassment of customers.
“Going through the MMIA is a challenge and very bad for usage by a rational being. The smallest airport under me is Cotonou Airport in Benin Republic. I can go to their toilets and come out with a smile on my face. We are not harassed by security agencies, unlike in Nigeria. We have scanning machines at our airports in Nigeria, so, why the harassment by the security agencies again in the country?”
Mr. Ehimiaghe also lambasted the infrastructure at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja, saying that the runway is in such a poor state that it damaged no fewer than four aircrafts in recent weeks. One was damaged to the extent that it had to be left in the country for over a week, he added.
Apart from facilities, the regional manager also mentioned the scarcity of aviation fuel as another major challenge confronting airline operators into the country.
He lamented that for about two weeks, the operators have not be able to purchase fuel and most times have to fly to Libreville or Accra to do so. The airline manager explained that this has increased the costs of flights for SAA.
Mr. Ehimiaghe also disclosed that the airline lost 40 per cent of its ticket sales to the recent forex challenge in the country.
He specifically mentioned that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) ordered them to exchange a dollar at between N306 and N308, but the bank itself sells as high as N360 to N370 per dollar to the operators.
“Today, we are selling tickets at N306 and N308 per dollar, but it’s much more expensive than that in the black market and even in the open market. Since June, there has not been a date that we are able to repatriate our ticket sales funds at N308, but we do that at N360 to N370 per dollar.
“90 per cent of our operations are in foreign exchange and no Nigerian bank gives South African Airways a loan, rather, we get loans from the United Kingdom and United States,” he said.
Mr. Ehimiaghe’s criticisms come just two days after London-bound passengers were left stranded at MMIA.