There is disorder at Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, as passengers are being compelled by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to use a new multi-story parking garage commissioned by Seymour Aviation Limited, a company believed to be owned by former aviation minister Stella Oduah.
SaharaReporters observed that motorists are now barred from picking up their family members close to the terminal and are compulsorily diverted to the new car park once they drive close to the terminal. The motorists are then forced to pay for parking their vehicles at the park even if they were to spend just a minute within the airport premises.
Drivers are charged N400 for the first hour and N100 for each additional hour spent at the parking garage.
The sum is apart from the N200 and N300 tollgate fee for cars and Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs), respectively, that motorists must pay once they access the airport through the tollgate.
In a bid to ensure total compliance with the draconian order, the FAAN has detailed policemen and towing vehicles in strategic locations to arrest anyone who violates the new policy.
The FAAN has also barricaded the road leading to the terminal from the arrival areas, which has made vehicular assessment to the terminal impossible.
The car park, which is controlled by Seymour Aviation as a Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) scheme, is under concession for 30 years before being handed over to the FAAN by the company.
A source close to the company confided in our correspondent that the operators, who are believed to be cronies of Mrs. Oduah, claimed to spend about N8 billion for the construction of the facility.
Our correspondent observed that some passengers with health challenges, aging travelers and those with children walked the distance to the car park before they could board any cab of their choice.
A source close to the FAAN told our correspondent that the policy was already affecting the financial status of the FAAN, as all other car parks within the international airport area were shut for the new car park to continue to reap huge profits at the expense of the authority.
Before the closure, there were no fewer than five other car parks in different locations within the airport premises.
The FAAN is believed to be earning at least N2 billion from car parks alone monthly, but with the new order, such funds will now go to Mrs. Oduah’s company.
One of the passengers with a baby strapped to her chest, who identified herself simply as Florence, decried the sordid situation in an interaction with our correspondent.
Florence lamented that every passenger is now forced to use the car park ostensibly in order to rake in funds for Mrs. Oduah’s company, stressing that at every airport across the world, motorists are given a few minutes to pick up their passengers and leave immediately.
She cited the example of the Murtala Muhammed Airport Two (MMA2), Lagos, where the authority allows motorists to either pick up or drop off their passengers within a few minutes without charge. Florence wondered why the reverse was the case with the FAAN at the international terminal.
“Since we all know that aviation is internationally regulated, I think the same standards should apply to all. Why will FAAN compulsorily divert every vehicle to the new terminal when they can easily pick up their family members or passengers within a few seconds at the arrival lounge? That’s the practice everywhere, even in high-security prone countries,” Florence said.
“Even in America, which prides security as its number one priority, and Heathrow Airport in London, passengers whose family members have come to pick them up are allowed. I don’t know why FAAN is insisting on this backward policy for everyone.”
Mrs. Oduah, as the former minister in the sector, had been sacked under controversial circumstances when it was discovered that she acquired two BMW cars at hyper-inflated rates of N355 million, among several other financial diversions within her 31-month tenure.
It would be recalled that the multi-story parking garage was commissioned on October 4, 2017.
Both the FAAN and Seymour Aviation Limited have had said that the opening of the car park would further ease traffic congestion at the airport. The two organizations said that the facility, a six-story building, has the capacity to accommodate 1,300 cars, making it the biggest in the industry.
Saleh Dunoma, the Managing Director of FAAN, who was represented at the occasion by Salisu Daura, Director of Engineering Services, said that pick ups and drop offs of all passengers within the area would be moved to the new facility.
“FAAN has put in place measures to maintain the facility. Everyone, including passengers, must cooperate with us to make things work,” he said.
Francis Ikenga, the Managing Director, Seymour Aviation Limited, said that the facility was built to international standards with a waiting lounge, bomb detectors, a public address system and conveniences on each of the six floors.