The Federal Government has said it will demolish two multibillion-naira private jet terminals/aircraft hangars to pave the way for the expansion of the newly inaugurated international terminal of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos.
The Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, who made the disclosure during an inspection of facilities at the Lagos airport on Thursday, said the private jet terminals were obstructing the expansion of the apron size of the new Chinese-build terminal, which was opened in March 2022.
According to him, the apron size of the new international terminal is not adequate to accommodate jumbo planes operating international routes.
The findings show that over 22 private jets belonging to some prominent Nigerians and organisations are expected to be relocated from the two multibillion-naira private jet terminals/hangars ahead of the demolition of the facilities.
The two private jet terminals belong to Dominion Air, an arm of Living Faith World Outreach (Winners Chapel), and Evergreen Hangar, owned and operated by a private company.
Keyamo emphasised the need to provide a better travelling experience for Nigerian passengers passing through the airport.
As a result, he said the old international terminal would be shut by October 1, while over 25 foreign airlines operating from the facility would be relocated to the new terminal.
The aviation minister said, “We have to find a way to use the new terminal. Like in many other countries, we have to get emergency procurement to buy big buses and move passengers to where the big planes can stop for both arrivals and departures so that Nigerians can have some form of comfort.
“The long-term plan is that, we are going to find a way to build avio-bridges for the big aircraft coming in and that means some of those private hangars will have to go for public purpose, we have to relocate them so that we can have a beautiful, functional gateway to Nigeria. For now, I am giving them till October 1 to shut down the old terminal so that we can use the new terminal.”
Keyamo declaration came barely four months after the immediate past Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said the two private jet terminals/hangars were obstructing the efficient use of the international wing of the airport.
As such, Sirika said the facilities would be demolished to pave the way for the expansion of the new international terminal built with Chinese loans.
He said, “Those two hangars, Dominion and Evergreen, will have to go and give way for our airport to be more efficient. We are not operating the Lagos airport at full capacity and it is household knowledge now, we have some obstructions that would be removed within the next one or two weeks, so that we can expand the apron; so that Lagos can have the full airport in full use to 100 per cent.”
However, Sirika could not carry out his threat until the end of the term on May 29.
Last year, the Federal Government had demolished the headquarters of the Accident Investigation Bureau located behind the new international terminal.
It is unclear whether there is litigation on the matter or whether the Federal Government and the owners of the hangar have entered an agreement on the issue.
Private jets reportedly belonging to Winners Chapel, GTBank, Pastor Enoch Adeboye of the Redeemed Church of God, and several business moguls currently make use of the two hangars.
However, the new aviation minister insisted that his concern was to get a better travelling experience for Nigerians.
Keyamo said, “The major complaint of Nigerians or foreigners coming into the country has been about the old terminal. That terminal is an eyesore. And we have this new terminal that the Chinese built. Nigerians have been asking why the new terminal is not put into use. The simple reason is that I don’t know how this new terminal was designed. It has a provision to take big planes. I don’t know how it happened. I’ve been asking questions about how they would design an international gateway like the Lagos terminal without a provision to take the big planes; it doesn’t have the avio-bridges that can link to the big planes.
He added, “That has been the reason why we have not been using this new terminal and that’s why Nigerians have been asking that question. Meanwhile, 60 per cent of the revenue of FAAN comes from the Lagos airport. The Lagos gateway is one of the major gateways in the country. So what is the solution to this? We have said we must use what we have for now. I’m giving the international and all the other airlines up to October 1 to move from the old terminal to the new terminal. What we are going to do temporarily is that we are going to shut down the old terminal and sort out all the issues regarding the renovation of the old terminal.”
On the Nigerian Air project, the minister said he had suspended the project.
He said, “There are issues already on the ground before I came; concession and all of that. For now, I have suspended all of that until I brief the president as to what is happening regarding all those noises going on, including the issue of Nigeria Air. I have given them the directive to suspend everything until I brief Mr President fully.
“For now, the temporary arrangement we want to make, and for the comfort of Nigerians, we have to find a way to use the new terminal built by the Chinese even without the big planes coming in because there are no aviobridges for them to use and the gate bridge for the passengers to pass. So like it’s done in many other countries we are going to do emergency procurement to buy the big buses. So we are going to put them in buses and move them to where the big planes stop in an orderly fashion, both the arrival and departure so that Nigerians can have some sort of comfort with this new facility.”
He added, “The long term plan is that we are going to find a way to build aviobridges for the big planes coming in and that means that some of those private hangars will have to go for public purpose. If we have to do anything for them, we will relocate them so that we can have a beautiful and functional gateway to Nigerians.”
However, the Assistant General Secretary of the Aviation Round Table, Olumide Ohunayo, while reacting said, “There were some discussions in the past which have led to litigation, coming in now, I thought the minister would have been patient. You don’t come in and take decisions like this, I am not a fan of demolition, I mean, a minister like him in the past was the one who failed to follow the master plan, not only in Lagos even in Abuja airport and that’s what has caused this problem. We have collected loan to build this terminal and it’s not yielding, we have a duty to recover money and pay those loans and the way to do that is for the terminal to work. Public officers should be made to face the consequences of actions that are inimical to the public.”
A former Military Commandant at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Group Capt John Ojikutu (retd.), said, “I don’t have any problem with what the minister has said because everything built on that side shouldn’t have been there. That’s where MMA’s terminal three and four ought to be. Will the apron in the new terminal take all the airlines if operations at the old terminal are suspended? For how long would this be? Abuja is not as big as MMA, yet how many buses are operating and it’s not even as big as the international airport in Lagos.”
Another stakeholder who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “It’s not going to end well, the airport cannot expand to anywhere else. It’s not nice for people to want to destroy what others built. You say they would be relocated, have you prepared a place for them? The new terminal is poorly designed and cannot house the big aircrafts yet you want airlines to move there.”