It is a dawn at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos. Flights have begun taking off from its new terminal.
The take off of flights from the new edifice has laid to rest speculations that the terminal was not fitted with state-of-the-art equipment.
Since the terminal was inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari on March 22, airlines, passengers and other airport users were sceptical about when operations would begin at the terminal.
Their anxiety was sequel to a series of mock and calibration carried out by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), with other agencies whose personnel are attached to the new terminal.
But, all that changed last Tuesday, when Air Peace relocated its flights from the 42-year-old terminal to the new edifice, which is a collaboration between the Federal Government and the Peoples Republic of China.
Air Peace spokesperson Stanley Olisa, who confirmed the kick off of the carrier’s regional and international flights from there, said many passengers were excited to travel from the new terminal, which experience has changed the narrative about aviation infrastructure in Nigeria.
The airline is the first to relocate to the terminal, which has the capacity to handle 20 million passengers yearly.
According to Air Peace, passengers flying to Accra, Banjul, Johannesburg, Dubai, Dakar, and Freetown should process their tickets from the new terminal.
Olisa said: “Passengers flying to Accra, Banjul, Johannesburg, Dubai, Dakar, and Freetown are expected to proceed to the new terminal to process their tickets, boarding and check-ins. Our ground personnel will assist you to ensure you seamlessly adjust to the new development.
“Our ground personnel are ready to assist the passengers to ensure they seamlessly adjust to this new development.”
Investigations by The Nation showed that the new terminal is equipped with censored conveyor belt, seven jet bridges, 10 ultra-modern cooling systems, heat extraction in the baggage hall, ample space for duty-free shops and banks, recreational areas for children, and for stop-overs, among other facilities.
‘”There are also 66 check-in counters, five baggage carousels, 16 immigration desks at arrival, 28 desks at departure, eight security screening points, six passenger boarding bridges with remote boarding and arrival.
“Others are two food courts, four premium lounges, 22 guests rooms and spas, 16 airline ticketing offices, visa on arrival and port health facility, praying areas, more than 3,000 square metres duty-free spaces and over 5,000 square metre letable utility spaces.”
Besides Air Peace, it is unclear when other airlines would move into the facility.
Speaking in an interview last week, the Comptroller of the MMIA command of Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Mrs. Kemi Nandap, said many officers of the border management agency had been trained on facilities handling at the new terminal.
Nandap explained that the training was to ensure that the officers were well-equipped for the job ahead, stressing that the Command being the first port of contact for international travellers coming into Nigeria, required committed, hardworking and refined officers to represent the image of the country.
She said: “The officers are undergoing an intensive training programme, which is aimed at re-orientating them and ensuring that they are adequately prepared for the task ahead.
“Upon the completion of the training, the officers are expected to go round on attachment at various wings and other sections like the Visa on Arrival, Statistics, Human Resources, Quits Aviation and other key areas of the airport.
“After these, the officers will be assessed based on their performance. If the Command is not satisfied with any of them, such an officer would be sent back for retraining.”
The Service Headquarters had recently redeployed over 30 officers to MMA Command, following the inauguration of the new terminal.
Investigations also showed that the new terminal is part of the Airport Infrastructure Initiative of the government. It has been described as a new dawn in the sector; it is built on an architectural acreage of 50,887 square metres with modern multi-functional facilities that would play an important role in promoting the economic prosperity of Lagos.
The facility, according to the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, is expected to stimulate healthy aviation operations, strengthening foreign trade, cultural exchanges, and tourism development as well as enhancing the trade and tourist links between Nigeria and the world.
Experts, including former spokesperson of Nigeria Airways, Mr. Chris Aligbe, described the new terminal as an infrastructure needed to scale up air travel in Nigeria.
FAAN’s Managing Director Captain Hamisu Yadudu said it would assist to drive a hub status for Nigeria.
In an interview, he said: “Having the terminal inaugurated is the first stage, other services and processes will be brought forward to create a facility that is work in progress. The passengers may see just a mere terminal open for use for flight operations, but as an airport authority, we see it differently, because airport terminal operations throw up new trends and development every day, so we have to keep at it to deliver what is world-class.”