Baggage handlers at the Muritala Muhammed International airport in Lagos last Thursday staged a protest against their hazardous conditions of service at the baggage hall.
A similar protest was staged six months ago when the workers complained about the heat. The Airport Manager, Mr. Autah, addressed them and promised that the airport management would address the situation but no improvement followed.
Some of the workers, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told SaharaReporters many of them have developed severe health problems because of the intensive heat in the hall. One of them said that some of the men have become physically impotent, unable to perform their conjugal duties at home.
They described the conveyor belts and carrousels as the crudest in the world, with many of them saying they often rely on one carrousel or carry some of the luggage by themselves, often leading to delayed flights.
“The heat is too much,” they lamented. “You won’t wish it for your worst enemy not to talk of yourself. We stay like five to six hours in the heat.”
The heat, our correspondent learnt, is caused by faulty condensers of air conditioners installed in the hall.
Thursday’s protest, which lasted for about two hours, affected a number of airlines, including Delta, British airways, Lufthansa, and South African.
An eyewitness said Mr. Autah, who was around during the protest, did not address the angry workers, necessitating airport authorities to call on some airline and other managers to persuade the handlers to return to work.
A senior airport official told our correspondent that many of the problems in the airport are attributable to arbitrary decisions by senior authorities who make installations at the airport without consulting with those who really know what is needed.
He cited an example of the tenure of Senator Stella Oduah as Minister of Aviation when air conditioner chillers were installed in the baggage hall but failed to work even once.
Another source offered yet another example concerning fake conveyor belts.
“Mrs. Oduah came with a belt and that belt was fake. They collected millions putting this new belt in, but it did not stand the test of time and it is not matching what is happening in technology. Corruption has eaten into so many departments.”
The source declared that the massive corruption at the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has also contributed to the awful state of the airport. He added that the airlines charge passengers for the installation and maintenance of the gadgets at the airport, and remit the money to FAAN, but that the money is never used for the purposes intended.”
“Most of the air conditioners at the terminal are not working. So [the] airlines had to buy their own air conditioners and the condensers of the airlines are fixed in the baggage hall.”
Another manager complained about what he described as “favoritism” towards British Airways by the FAAN, as the airline is allowed to screen the bags of their passengers, a duty that is supposed to be that of Nigerian Airport Security.
The protesters were promised again that their demands will be addressed but nobody could guarantee when the chillers will be installed.