New Telegraph

MMA2, symbol of good airport experience

To most people, the function of an airport is simple and singular – it’s where you go when you want to travel over a long distance quickly. In reality, however, airport terminals are used for so much more.

 

They provide vast spaces which accommodate abundant amenities; dozens of restaurants and retail outlets which provide a comfortable setting for travellers in and out of the country. The Murtala Muhammed Airport 2 (MMA2) prides itself as one of such airport terminals in the world. Many airports pride themselves on being the first and last thing someone sees in a city or country and strive to create the best possible impression.

 

The site where the Murtala Muhammed Airport 2, otherwise known as MMA2 is currently housed was a ramshackle domestic terminal of the Lagos airport. The terminal was gutted by fire that razed the entire domestic structure in 2000. For over three years, the Federal Government was at a loss as to what it wanted to do with the re-construction of the facility as Government and by extension; the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) was not ready to commit funds to such a project of rebuilding the terminal.

 

The Federal Government came up with the idea of experimenting with the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) option. Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL) took the risk to be used as the Guinea Pig for what is becoming very popular in the aviation industry in the provision of infrastructure development at many of the country’s aerodromes.

 

The task to build a world-class fell  on the reserve bidder, BASL which, in 2003, was awarded the concession by the Federal Government to develop, finance, manage and operate the terminal and ancillary assets under a Design-Build- Operate-Transfer (DBOT) arrangement.

 

The project description included the airport terminal building, a multi-story car park, an apron, a four-star hotel, and a conference centre. What appeared to be a big risk then because of the fragile nature of doing business in Nigeria, particularly when it involves the deployment of public funds is now becoming an option for the government as it removes them from the injection of scarce public funds into infrastructure.

 

The MMA2 was commissioned in 2007 and for 15 years has become the reference point in Nigeria’s aviation industry as it met all the requirements for airport terminal development and has continued to win laurels as Nigeria’s finest domestic and regional airport terminal.

 

The terminal has the capacity to facilitate four million passengers per annum with its modern technological innovations, which include the Common Users Passenger Processing System (CUPPS), self-service check-in kiosks, Automated Access Gates, and the Baggage Reconciliation System (BRS). MMA2 is the first and only terminal to deploy such in Nigeria and the West and Central Africa.

 

But for the doggedness of the leadership of Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL), there would be no MMA2 again today. Inconsistent government policies, regulatory authorities’ lapses and so many other challenges have reared their heads in the last 15 years, threatening the project.

 

The major problem has been the interpretation of the concession agreement. BASL continues to insist, supported by various court judgments, that going by the concession agreement, all domestic flights ought to emanate from its terminal and that the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) is supposed to be managed by it. But successive governments have not honoured this agreement.

 

To cap this, even while GAT continues to be managed by FAAN, the passenger service charge due to BASL under the agreement as part of the revenue stream for recouping its investment has not been paid for 10 years.

 

As of today, BASL maintains that FAAN owes it N200 billion in damages and the interest will continue to accrue until the agency pays up. Even the approval for regional flights from the terminal remains frustrated and is yet to see the light of day. MMA2 is home to multinational retail outlets, shops, restaurants, and some of the world’s most prestigious fashion labels and beauty products, offering a wide variety of exclusive items.

 

The success of BASL and MMA2 is even more significant given the multifaceted government opposition that trailed the project. This has led to multiple lawsuits between the government and BASL, all of which BASL won with the courts awarding significant financial penalties to the government running into more than N200billion.

 

Despite all the challenges faced in the last 15 years, the Chairman of BASL, Dr. Wale Babalakin has remained focused, noting that he was driven by a passion for the country and not necessarily based on the profit that made him venture into the N34 billion edifices.

 

This is more so as he admitted recently that the terminal had been running at a loss due to the failure of government, through the FAAN to uphold the Public- Private Partnership (PPP) agreement it entered into with BASL

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