Eyes On our Airports and Immigration

By Frank Meke.

In the past few years and sometimes in an unbelievable circle of movements nursed by my calling, I had been opportuned to transit and be processed through big and small airports in Africa and around the world.

Over time, I had to worry about immigration procedures at these airports, their ambience, cleanliness, toilets, in particular, security and general maintenance.

I also worry about luggage transfers, particularly when transiting. I once had a horrible experience during a trip from Berlin to frankfurt, heading out to Nigeria, which went awary due to bad weather, which caused late departure from Berlin and subsequently a missed lufthansa flight to lagos from frankfurt.

Desperate to leave the very unfriendly weather in Europe, I took lufthansa to Madrid with hope of getting to lagos through iberia, which had interlining arrangements with lufthansa. Again, I missed the flight and slept in Madrid.

All these while my luggage was also following me around and took three days to get to me in lagos. But it is just a little of the unavoidable and unpredictable scenarios that could play out in international travel.

Today, airports across the world are becoming increasingly like homes and offices, some creating liveability areas such as hotels and lodges, and all fested with WiFi to make communication easier.

These are just part of the making of airports and immigration procedures, which again tells a story about a nation and people, particularly in welcoming visitors, tourists, and investors.

Like I hinted above, I have passed through the three biggest airports by volume of passenger passports processed by October 2023, Haresfield Jackson International Airport, Atlanta, Dubai Airport and Tokyo Airport, apart from Heathrow which prides of 95 per cent passports control in less than 45 minutes.

Until my recent experience, last week Sunday, to be precise and on arrival from United Kingdom, I had always dreaded Murtala Mohammed International Airport due to the delays and difficulty in getting through passports control.

During recent trips to South Africa in May and Namibia in June, it was a horrible two legs departure and arrival experience that got me drained of the joy of seeing other countries work hard at improving their airport facilities and immigration formalities.

Those who still love Nigeria and believe we can do well on bringing inbound tourism traffic, do worry and lament about our very negligent, unfriendly, and compromising scenarios at our airports, particularly MMIA

The most shameful of it all is the begging culture, and I do wonder how easy it’s for drug cartels and other numerous international rings of conflict merchants do rub off the palms of compromised airport workers on end to import and export their illicit cargoes through our airports.

I had listened over and over to the speech of President Ahmed Tinubu on the uniqueness of our culture, history, and tradition, largely incomparable. Our diversity beyond our culture, dovetailing to oil and gas, solid minerals resources, and assets, human resources, and above all, our culinary expressions to which the world wishes to taste and fest but the missing links are in management and leadership.

On Sunday, I witnessed a transformed immigration procedure at Murtala Mohammed Airport. There were three or four foreign airlines on the ground, spilling their passengers to the immigration point, but the old ways of doing things, asking to fill one useless paper or other, is gone. And if you have a travel companion, you possibly will declare the person missing because the speed at passport control is less than five minutes. So na wetin happen?

Who brought this change to immigration procedures at the airport? The new Minister of Interior? I asked no one in particular because Nigerian immigration has existed for ages, and so I can confidently assume and submit that someone up the ladder wants a change, a visible change, and it’s here.

When competence, good management, and leadership drive a nation, it won’t be too long to join the world to celebrate refreshing transformation and narratives.

My eyes are the Minister of Interior Dr Tunji Ojo, and it won’t be long enough to see our hard and tough visa regime change also. It will be icing on the cake for our inbound tourism traffic expectations and the opening of cultural tourism diversity to a world waiting for Nigeria to rebound in grace and acceptation.

Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria ( FAAN) has also shown the capacity to make life easy for users of the airport in Ikeja. The newly built facility through Chinese loan looks great and inviting, but my worry is maintenance culture. Heathrow is aged, but you can see the gifted hands of maintenance, I mean per second, and considering the huge number of passengers that use that facility, 129 thousand plus daily and
round the clock.

If you don’t also know, a new arrival pick-up point has been inaugurated, saving arriving passengers and their waiting families, hours of pushing trolleys to the parking lot some meters away. It is a strategic development, an effectual addition to making departure from airport easy and convenient. There’s a need to connect WiFi to the facility, too.

But I worry again about an illegal toll just after the new arrival drive-through and think it is a show spoiler. There are families or friends who do not necessarily need to park the car park areas in wait to pick up their arriving families, but would time them appropriately to pick them away from the arrival pick up areas, so why ambush them?

Again, there is a new Minister of Aviation and Aerospace management, and it is glaring that a new fresh air is coming through FAAN management.

In obvious consideration of this development by these two sister agencies, it is my considerd opinion that the Minister of Interior, Dr Olubunmi Tunji Ojo and Festus Keyamo( SAN) will indeed bring renewed, accountable and responsive renewed hope to the gateway into and out of Nigeria.

Indeed, it is my fervent hope that great managers and leaders would help transform Nigeria, and these two gentlemen are under my watch. When you go through our airports and roads and use any public facility, please look out for something and say something. Nigeria must be great again!.

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