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A Nation Rebounds (Posted 12th Mar, 2001) Tell your friends about this page! Email it to them.

Those coming into Nigeria through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos for the first time may be disappointed. The countryís first international airport still cuts the picture of a house in a state of disrepair. The automatic sliding doors at the airport are not working, so passengers have to literally push their way through. The heat in the arrival and departure halls is so overpowering that passengers prefer to stay outside to while away the time before their flight time. And more often than not the public address system and flight indicators do not work.

On a typical day, passengers usually have a hectic time as they battle the heat as well as the pervading chaos. There are always too many security personnel and official and one maybe at a loss about what to do. Some of the toilet facilities are also not working. Passengers usually have a hectic time looking for unctional restrooms/toilet facilities.

A New Dawn for Nigeriaís Airports

However, the authorities of the airport say all the facilities will soon be functional. Officials of the Nigerian Airport Authority, NAA who acknowledged that the cooling system in the airport had not worked for sometime say that the system is being overhauled to ensure that the Lagos airport returns to its lost glory. The floors of the airport are being resurfaced while equipment and facilities, which have broken down over a long period are either being replaced or repaired. NAA officials reckon that within three months that Nigeria's foremost airport will wear a new look and passengers will then have a new deal.

It is not only the Lagos Airport that is being refurbished. Other airports in the country are undergoing various levels of facelift. And since security is crucial, NAA is training a new set of graduates who will function as security personnel. The increased security interest is based on the report of a commission of inquiry. The report declared, "More security staff should be recruited, trained and deployed to the airport. The number of walkie-talkies should be increased while the radio communication system should be installed immediately." The Nasir Againah headed commission made this recommendation.

The government desirous of improving facilities, and safety at the countryís airports accepted the commissionís report. Vincent Ogbulafor, a minister of state in the presidency headed the team that prepared the government position paper on the commissionís recommendation. And when next you are visiting Nigeria you should be assured of your safety in the countryís airspace. The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, NAMA has continued to update navigational facilities at all the countryís airports. According to the Management of NAMA, "our air traffic controllers who are well trained, most of them from the Nigeria College of Aviation Technology, Zaria which has good reputation in these areas in the whole of Africa, also have tremendous experience. They have equally excelled in practical terms." NAMA says it has 1500 personnel in charge of air control.

Digital Mobile Phone Revolution

Even as the promise of improved facilities in the nationís airport continue to generate interest among Nigerians, the country continues to march irrevocably towards joining the rest of the world in the area of Global Systems for Mobile, GSM. Under the direction of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, three companies won the competitive bidding for Licences to operate the GSM in Nigeria. The companies are Communication Investment Limited, CIL*, Econet Wireless Communications and MTN a South African Company. To show their confidence in the Nigerian market each of the three companies paid an initial non-refundable $20 millions deposit. And in spite of fears that the companies would not be able to meet the deadline for the payment of the 285 million dollars Licence fee, all the winners paid up before or on the due date. The three companies now join the National Company M-Tel to provide the GSM to Nigeria.

Ernest Ndukwe, the Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Communications Commission, NCC is in an upbeat mood. Ndukwe says the coming of GSM holds a lot of promises for Nigeria. He described it as a watershed.

Most Nigerians hold the same view. In spite of the fact that they do not expect that Mobile phones may be immediately easily available, they see the GSM as a way forward. Ola Adenrele, a teacher in Lagos says with the GSM the country is on to solving its communication problem while the benefits of improved communications will begin to flow. Ndukwe says Nigerians do not have to wait for long. He estimates that by May 2001, the first set of Mobile phones from the new service providers who now have Licence to operate will be available. Ndukwe says except where absolutely necessary the NCC would not interfere in the running of the companies and provision of services. The NCC will only serve as a regulatory body.

Transparent Digital Mobile Licence Auction

Another major achievement of the NCC is the transparent manner the bidding was done. All the participating companies had equal chance to win as the bidding was done openly. This perhaps reflects the anti-corruption posture of the Olusegun Obasanjo administration. Under the military, this would have been impossible, as the Generals would only issue Licences to their cronies and to companies where they have substantial shares. Nigerians would only get to know about the companies after the deal had been sealed.

The Sacking at NAMA and Anti-Corruption

Such a practice may now be an anathema. Recently, the government sacked the chairman of the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency, NAMA, Chief Rochas Okorocha. He was accused of interfering with contract procedures thereby inflating the original cost of radar from 14 million dollars to 15 million dollars. However, the chief is fighting back saying he was never involved in the scam. He continued to maintain that he did not preside over any meeting where the purported inflation took place. From the controversy it is now very clear that corruption is gradually becoming unfashionable in Nigeria and people are realising that the anti-corruption crusade of the government is not just for the fun of it.

The anti-corruption commission headed by Justice Mustapha Akanbi is gearing up to try the first set of offenders. Akanbi recently confirmed that the commission had received petitions against some political office holders. Under the anti-corruption law the following offences could be investigated and adjudicated upon by the commission: -

* Fraud

* Giving or accepting gratification through agent

* Counseling offences relating to corruption

* Fraudulent acquisition of property

* Fraudulent receipt of property

* Deliberate frustration of investigation by the commission

* Gratification by and through agents

* Bribery of public officers

* Making false or misleading statements to the independent anti-corruption commission.

*CILís Licence has since been revoked due to conditions it attached to the payment for its Licence into NCCís account. However, NCCís board will meet on the 14th of March to decide whether to revalidate the Licence.

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See also: Nigerian Anti-Corruption Commission

               Nigerian Communications Commission

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