A pot that cooks soup must have a hot base

In 2013 there was a massive work done to the Lagos MMIA departure area, the improvement is impossible for anyone who has ever used this airport to miss, I was elated for this.

To put this in context, MMIA when opened in 1979 was meant to handle 500,000 passengers annually, by the time of the extension in 2013, the yearly passengers has reached 5M+.

To my mind Sleeping Airports ratings of Nigeria airports being the worst in both Africa and the world should be a call to duty rather a call for argument, this is no brainer if one has ever been to other airports either on the continent or around the world, well other airports apart from those on the top ten worst airports list.

In Blueprint for Revolution by Sroja Popovic and Mathew Miller. After so many airport encounters, here is what Sroja had to say about how an airport gives insights to the country’s culture and it’s people.

“…airports are perfect microcosms of their societies, and if you study an airport closely enough, you’ll be able to learn a lot about the culture that built it.” Pg 126.

For example, he talked about the obsessiveness of Americans with airport security which explains the many security checks at the airport. Also their sensitiveness to the need of disabled passengers which is reflected in the low water fountains and washrooms.

Reading about a few other airports that Sroja mentioned, I had a mental picture of what any visitors to Nigeria would think of us regardless of where s/he is whizzed off to in the city, because our airport says volume about us, our collective value.

Based on Sleeping Airport 5 C’s corruption, crowds, chaos, confusion and a total lack of cleanliness. Port Harcourt International airport (PGC) is the worst in the world and Lagos MMIA and PHC made it the top 10 worst in Africa.

Here is my assessment of the MMIA compared to my experience of other airports I have used.

Corruption – At the departure entrance, families not travelling are not supposed to enter the baggage check-in area (not enough room), this area is always flooded with people not travelling, money exchanging hands is not hidden. I was once asked for ‘Easter present’ by the uniformed guys at the entrance if I’d like my sisters to go in with me, I hissed at both and left.

Crowds– The crowd at the arrivals outside of the terminal is insane especially in the evening when it’s dark and not nearly enough lights. At the departure check-ins, we have created this annoying checks that further compounded the problem, we have officers rummaging every single bag to be checked in with their hands. I get the drug/explosives or whatever else they were searching for, but why do we have three people doing the same job on one bag? Why do they have to manually write our names in A4 papers?

Chao – At the arrival terminals, after immigration clearance, baggage reclaim, and declaration points, normally one is free to exit the terminals to the warm embrace of waiting family, friends or a taxi driver. However, in our case not so much. Few steps away is another airport staff asking for the ticket stub usually stuck to the back of the passport. Don’t they share information on baggage, even with all electronic information collected on passengers?

Confusion – The only thing I could think of here is the escalator at the arrivals, is that meant to ever work?

The good old total lack of cleanliness – And Hajia Binta Bello, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Aviation questioned that? Did she think Sleeping Airports was comparing MMIA and PHC airports to Mile 12 market?While our departures toilet facility has improved, the arrivals is still a total mess. Here’s an example, the lady positioned at the corridor of the toilet by the sink, in her hand was a roll of toilet paper, I didn’t notice this as I had a pack of travel sized tissue with me. On my way out I asked why she didn’t leave the tissue paper in the toilet, her response was “Because people waste it” I smiled and left but in my mind I thought “waste it?, Did they shove it in their mouth or used it for  intended purpose?” 

The main entrance glass doors of the departure area is filled with remnants of old public notice, and new ones on top. Often on the floor are empty plastic bottles. bins provided but too much work to use.

Nigeria will get better if we can handle constructive criticisms and make adjustment where needed.

Ikoko tio j’ata, idi re a gbona – a pot that will cook soup must have a hot base. We can never see the change we desire by masking our collective social problems.