Nigeria’s major and biggest airport terminal at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos is overstretched and one that needs urgent replacement. Consequently, the new international airport under construction, for which a $500 million loan was sought from China in 2013, is nearing completion. It will be opened in March to welcome millions of air travelers, aviation authorities tell AirInsight. Lagos new terminal to open in March to solve overcapacity.
Coincidentally, the big four airports in Lagos, Abuja, Port-Harcourt, and Kano were beneficiaries of the 2013 $500 million loan deal between Nigeria and China to build four new terminals for the four airports. Abuja and Port Harcourt currently use the new terminals, while those of Lagos and Kano remain uncompleted eight years after.
Managing Director, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Captain Hamisu Rabiu Yadudu, notes that the new terminal construction at Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos is now 98 percent complete. The new terminal will be commissioned before the end of March to expand the capacity of the MMIA and provide exquisite comfort to its highly esteemed passengers.
He highlighted some factors that had since been militating against the terminal to achieve its mandate. A factor inhibiting the airport from attaining the top-notch service delivery it desires was the global economic depression, which had adversely affected revenue generation. This gave rise to the accumulation of debts, induced rising operating, and maintenance costs, amongst others.
Since 1979, when the airport was inaugurated, no expansion work has taken place despite the increase in the number of foreign and indigenous carriers using the airport. Investigations revealed that over 28 foreign carriers including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Lufthansa German Airlines, Air France/KLM, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, Turkish Airlines, and Royal Air Maroc among others operate at the airport.
Others operating flights into and out of the MMIA include Delta Airlines, South African Airways, RwandAir, Air Namibia, ASKY Airlines, African World Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, Egypt Air, CamAir, Cedar Airlines, Air Tunisia, Air Cote D’Ivoire, and Middle East Airlines, among others.
The steady increase in air travel demand in recent years has pushed Nigerian airports to their limits, but it is the inability of the system of operation to expand accordingly that has caused the delay. Indeed, the system is operating so close to its maximum capacity that it is not unusual for a relatively small local thunderstorm to cause widespread delays far beyond the area affected by the weather. AirInsight reported on the precarious state of Murtula Airport in October.
It can be said that Nigeria has a substantial number of domestically distributed airports: almost thirty airports with nearly forty runways serving the public air transport system of a country with a population of over 200 million people. But with the traffic is heavily concentrated at a few airports, which are more or less working at the capacity level.
More than one-third of the Nigerian passenger traffic is handled by Lagos alone and almost two-thirds of the total is served by the three airports at Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt. Airports, especially in developing countries, face the challenge of meeting the growing demand for air transport.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has stated that a lack of airport capacity could be one of the most serious constants to the growth of commercial and private aviation.
Passengers Traffic Statistics Report made available by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to AirInsight indicates that the figure comprised 5.513.098 domestic passengers and 907.722 international travelers.
Appreciable traffic growth
According to the report, Murtala Muhammed International Airport processed the highest number of international travelers with 670.938 passengers, followed by Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja with 225.985 in the first half of 2021.
The Abuja airport topped the chart for domestic air travelers with 1.974.249 passengers, closely followed by Lagos airport with 1.786.236. Others are Port Harcourt 377.679 passengers, Enugu 231.669, and Kano 225.870.
The report indicates that Lagos and Abuja airports alone accounted for 3.760.485 out of a total of 5.513.098 or 68.2 percent of all domestic arrivals and departures, and 896.923 out of a total of 907.722 or 98.8 percent of all international passengers. Malam Aminu Kano International Airport came a distant third with only 10.119 international passengers in the first half of the year.