Imagine the impression one will get about London if one enters the Queen’s land through its gateway, Heathrow Airport and you are received by hundreds of fuel tankers parked or driving indiscriminately on both sides of the dual carriageway that leads into the city. Take a mental picture of potholes and craters unattended to as well as overgrown grasses in the median on the highway that leads to JFK Airport in New York. That looks impossible. However, the same cannot be said of Nigeria’s gateway to its economic capital, the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA. The dual carriageway from the airport through Ajao, leading to other parts of the city; Oshodi, Apapa etc is dotted by eyesores.
In place of well manicured lawns, flowers, decent environment and good roads, what welcome first time visitors to Nigeria through the MMIA, are overgrown elephant grasses on the median, bus garages with the attendant confusion and cacophony of noises from motor park touts, potholes and craters on the road, falling street light poles begging to be re-erected or lowered and of course the ubiquitous national embarrassment – fuel tankers that have taken over the airport road.
If the visitors arrive in the night, the darkness on that road caused by the absence of functional street lights may arouse their curiosity thinking that they are being driven into danger.
The eyesores are legion. Speaking to Saturday Sun, a resident, Edem Ukah, said that it is only in Nigeria that you see this type of disorderliness on its gateway. According to him, other climes that don’t have beautiful cities make sure that a first time visitor would have a good impression about them from their gateway before getting to the city. “ Nigerians are not concerned. We start advertising our inefficiencies and disorderliness from the point of entry into our nation.
“Look at the Mafoluku and 7 and 8 bus stops, bus garages everywhere, Okada parks and mechanical workshops. This disorderly environment is what greets a first time visitor to Nigeria. Again, look at the interchange at the beginning of the Airport road – joining Apapa road are overgrown grasses , the drainage is a toilet and under the flyover to Oshodi are block molders and other artisans. Is that the way it is in other countries even in Africa?
“We keep mouthing about tourism as the alternative to oil and our next destination, but we are not doing anything to give a lasting immersion to a first time visitor to Nigeria through Lagos, which of course is the commercial hub of the nation.”
Ike Whyte, a legal practitioner also expressed worry over the state of the nation’s gateway. He wondered why former Lagos State governor, Raji Fashola didn’t carry out his radical transformation on airport road for the eight years he held sway in the state.
According to him, the magic wand Fashola employed to transform Oshodi should also have been used on the airport road.
He said: “Oshodi, which former military governors could not make look attractive, Fashola came and within a short time transformed Oshodi to one of the most beautiful places to behold in Lagos. That is what he should have done on airport road to make Nigeria look at least a serious country for a first time visitor. Since Fashola has tackled Oshodi, maybe we pray that Governor Ambode would take on the airport road and transform it.”
There are also insinuations that the aviation fuel storage facility at the airport has been converted to premium motor spirit (PMS) depot which explains why fuel tankers have taken over the road.
Speaking on this issue, the acting General Manager (Public Relations ) of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Sam Adurogboye, dismissed the insinuations that the aviation fuel depot facility has been converted to premium motor spirit storage.
He said: “Categorically, it is not true that they have or are converting the aviation fuel depot to PMS. It is impossible. We approve whatever that is being done there, and in conjunction with DPR, which has over sight function. There is nowhere a place meant for aviation fuel would be converted for petrol. It is an imagination that is not possible.”
On the issue of fuel trucks parking along the airport road, he pointed that his agency had to alert Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) about the risk the tankers constitute to the airport environment. “There was the allegation that some of them were even cooking around the place and we moved in quickly and steps were taken and they were relocated far way to the back of the hydrant. There is a major access road being constructed for them to use when coming to off load at the hydrant in order to make their movement easy to meet up with their loading and off loading for aircraft.” He stated that though the trucks had been removed from the road before, but they defied the order to return.
On the issue of commercial buses that have constituted menace on the road, especially at the U-turn at Hajj camp, the NCAA spokesman, said the commercial buses were also relocated further from the airport vicinity and were given people to control their operation there. He promised that the attention of rele vant authorities would be drawn to this.
On the overgrown grasses on the median, he also said that appropriate authorities will be informed. “Very soon, you will see changes. I wouldn’t know the challenges the FAAN authorities are facing, but those challenges should not exonerate them from doing what they are supposed to do even if it means borrowing, they have to do that.
“We are here to ensure that everybody does what he is supposed to do so as to have a smooth operation. Be that as it may, we have consumer protection at the airport, which operates for 24 hours, not just to take complaints but to monitor and try to bring parties together to resolve their differences instead of going to court.
“ We are on top of the situation and the constructions going on in the airports are bound to cause discomfort for passengers and airport users for now as there may be relocation of parks.
“ As soon as those constructions are completed and the terminal open for use, then everything would normalize. Construction is a good omen; it is a sign of growth, it comes with discomfort but when it is over everybody enjoys it. We plead with airport users to bear with us for the time being”.
On the state of the road, he said that FERMA is already fixing it but noted that major works would be done during dry season.
One of the leaders of the Aviation Unit of National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, Chief Kilanko Solomon, said it was not true that the Jet A1 (aviation fuel) storage facility was being used for petrol storage.
Commenting on the fuel trucks on the road, he said, “those fuel tankers park on the right flank from the airport are going to MRS parking bay, opposite The Guardian newspapers at Toyota bus stop, along the Oshodi-Apapa expressway.
According to him, “when you see those trucks along the airport road, it is because there are no parking spaces at their bay, and they are waiting to be called upon to come and load at Apapa. ” He also said that they (his union) usually quarrel with them and in some cases deflate their tyres.
He admitted that the trucks that are parked facing the airport belong to their members. “They are loaded with aviation fuel going to discharge at the Jet A1 depot. The reason they park along the road is because of the weight of the truck. If they should drive to our parking bay which is marshy, those trucks would sink. So they park there until they are called in to offload.”