Air travellers in Nigeria are lamenting the high cost of using some facilities at the nation’s airports, describing payment for using facilities like trolleys as clear exploitation.
In a nationwide survey conducted by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the travellers queried the high cost of some facilities provided at the Nigerian airports, ranging from parking vehicles to other sundry services.
They wondered why users of items such as trolleys still had to pay to use the facility, arguing that use of such facilities had been built into air tickets.
At the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja some of the travellers said they paid between N150 to N400 to use trolleys that ought to be provided free.
A traveller at the local wing of the airport, Mr Hakeen Adebola, told NAN that he resorted to dragging his luggage, instead of paying a huge amount demanded by an airport official for him to use trolleys.
He argued that it was wrong for government to allow private firms to extort money from air travellers, pointing out that use of trolleys was free in other countries around the globe.
“Why are things different in Nigeria, why should air travellers in Nigeria pay for facilities that are provided free in other countries.’’
“I am calling on the Federal Government to take urgent steps to make trolleys available to air travellers at no cost in Nigeria,’’ he stated.
Similarly his colleague, Mr James Pam, said the payment of money to a private firm before using facilities at the nation’s airports portrayed high-level exploitation of travellers.
Pam argued that such arrangement was not in the best interest of the country, adding that it did not speak well of Nigeria before the international community.
His co-traveller, Mrs Juliet Abdul, said that using trolleys was free at airports around the world, expressing her disappointment that people should be compelled to pay before using trolleys in Nigeria.
A check by at the premier Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, showed that a big trolley is rented at a cost of N2, 500; while a small one goes for N1.600.
Using the trolley also attracts a service charge of N150, which excludes `tips’ usually demanded by porters conveying luggage for travellers.
NAN checks also showed that some travellers have resorted to avoiding using the trolleys in a bid to avoid payment.
They often resort to pulling their suitcases and
and other luggage, some carrying the loads on their heads to get to either the arrival or departure areas.
The scenario often casts a nasty picture at the airports, questioning the contract signed between the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Skyblue Aviation Services Ltd on trolley services at the airport.
According to information on the website of Skyblue Aviation Services, the currently has 220 members of staff and 2, 250 trolleys for travellers at the Lagos airport.
A staff of the company, who spoke to NAN on condition of anonymity, said the trolley charges were fixed to enable the company provide world-class services to air travelers.
“As you can see here at MMA2, our boys are everywhere ensuring that idle trolleys are returned immediately and at the same time ensuring that passengers who require our assistance are given prompt attention,” the worker said.
At the Port Harcourt, a businessman and regular traveller, Mr Kingsley Tamuno, said he was not
happy with the charges paid to use trolleys at Nigerian airports.
“ I have travelled abroad and nobody has charged me any fee for using trolleys at the airport.
“Passengers pick the trolleys for their bags and leave the airport on arrival.
“But I pay N500 to use trolleys in Nigeria and it is not funny to me,” Tamuno said.
Another Port Harcourt air traveller, Mr Kedi Nde, expressed his worry over the high the charges paid to use trolleys at Nigerian airports.
“ It’s a discomfort on passengers. In Europe and other African countries, there are no charges on trolleys; it’s only in Nigeria I pay for using the trolleys.
“To us as tourists, it’s exploitative and should be stopped,” he pleaded.
At the Asaba Airport, a merchant, Mrs Uju Okoye, said it was wrong to pay for trolleys, arguing that the facility should be provided free at airports.
“The trolleys are part of airport facilities to assist air travelers with the movement of their luggage, so why should we be made to pay?
“To me, it is the height of exploitation because it can be likened to asking a visitor at a high-rise building to pay before using the elevator to climb upstairs.’’
At the Margaret Ekpo International Airport in Calabar, the Airport Manager, Mr Mahmud Sani, said the trolley business was not contracted to any firm for financial gain.
He explained that the airport had two trolleys, one for passengers, wanting to be assisted by porters and another for travellers wanting to use the trolleys by themselves.
“It is for the comfort of our passenger that we have two sets of trolleys, one for payment and the other for free self use.
“Some passengers, especially tourists who are coming into the state may want their luggage carried for them by the airport porter.
“These tourists may appreciate the porter with a token amount because there are no fixed charges for assisting any passenger in carrying luggage.
“Also, we did not contract the trolley business to any firm. We are running it locally for the comfort of our passengers.’’
Sani said that with the efficient management of trolleys at the airport, no passenger had complained of luggage loss.
A porter, Mr Tony Etim, told NAN that he often got tokens from kind-hearted travellers whenever he assisted them in carrying their luggage with the trolleys.
He said that he was directly employed by the airport’s management to ease the stress of passenger carrying their luggage.
At the Akanu Ibiam International Airport in Enugu, an official told NAN that the management of the airport was not aware of any service charge by porters at the airport.
The official, who pleaded for anonymity, explained that porters at the airport relied on whatever they got from travellers to maintain the trolleys and make their living.
He described maintenance of the trolleys as a big issue, saying that it was difficult for FAAN to provide enough trolleys at the airport to ease the hardship of travellers.
“The porters are not paid salaries because they are not staff of FAAN. They depend on what they get on daily basis to maintain the trolleys as well as take care of their families.
“However, we have not got any report that passengers are charged for the usage of the trolleys to move their luggage or goods.
“The much we know is that the passengers freely give to the porters whatever they have to appreciate their services.”
The official said that the services of the porters at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport were not contracted to any firm, unlike what obtained in bigger airports in the country.
“We have not been lucky to attract corporate organisations to donate trolleys to us as was done in other airports.
“This could explain why we have limited number of such equipment,” the official said.
Speaking on the issue, the General Manager, Corporate Affairs of FAAN, Mr Yakubu Dati, argued that paying for the use of trolleys was not peculiar to Nigeria.
“There are people who are in charge of ensuring that the trolleys are there for use by travellers. So whoever you put there you have to pay him.
“It is expected that the cost have to be borne somehow.
“At the moment, the trolley services are paid for by the passengers who require them. It is not compulsory. Those who do not require them have no need for them.
“We ensure that the concessionaire has a trolley service that is serviceable and is also at par with international standards,” said Dati
But the President of the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, Mr Benjamin Okewu, told the management of FAAN to consider reducing the trolley charges.
Okewu said: “For example in the United States, I know that in New York, they charge $5 per trolley. So I believe what they are charging here is high.
“Although, this service was provided freely to travellers some years ago but all over the world now, there is no where you will get trolley service at the airport for free.
“If FAAN should buy them and make the facility free to travellers, do you know how many people that it will employ to move the trolleys around?
“All over the world, the airport authority does not have any business to provide trolleys for air travellers.
“If FAAN should involve itself with such services, the cost of operating the terminal will increase.”
However, Mr Lucky Izevbokun, Secretary, National Union of Air Transport Employees, Lagos State Chapter, argued that charging for using the trolleys was not convenient for travellers.
“FAAN is generating revenue from the concessionaire on trolley service at the detriment of air passengers using the item to convey their luggage.
“I have travelled far and wide to different countries and most countries providing such service as part of their facilitation to air travellers, provide it to them for free,” he stated.
Similarly, an aviation expert, Mr Olumide Ohunayo, said
that trolley services at the airports should be part of the perks to be given to travellers.
Ohunayo, however, lamented that using the trolleys had been monitised and now used to provide jobs for the “boys”.
A tour operator, Miss Lorreta Ogwu, noted that air travellers were supposed to use the trolleys, saying that free access to the trolleys had been denied because of the concession agreement between FAAN and Skyblue Services.
A businessman, Mr Ikechukwu Usali, said that although the trolley service made travelling convenient, many travellers avoided it because of high charges.
“I think they should reduce the price of renting the trolleys or in the alternative, include it into the airfare,” Usali said.
A top-level official of FAAN, who pleaded anonymity, told NAN that the payment for trolleys was instituted during the tenure of a former Minister of Aviation, Ms Stella Oduah.
The official explained that the ministry during Oduah’s tenure, signed a concession agreement with a company called “Jace Darl Trolley Services’’ to undertake trolley services at the airport.
“That is why travellers pay for the use of trolleys now and the amount is N150 for those who want to push it themselves and N400 for those who prefer the company’s staff to push for them.
“The immediate past Minister of Aviation, Mr Osita Chidoka, had directed that the concession agreement should be discontinued at its expiration to enable the passengers to use trolleys free.
“Now that we have a new government, we don’t know whether Chidoka’s directive will still work or not,’’ the official added.
The official also disclosed that a church in Abuja, known as “Family Worship Centre’’ had donated a number of trolleys to the airport for travellers to use free.
Meanwhile, the Minister of State for Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, has given his assurance that payment for the use of trolleys at the nation’s airports would stop as soon as the current contract agreement expired.
Sirika explained that the arrangement could not be stopped immediately as it could lead to litigations, adding that the contract would not be reviewed as soon as it ended.
According to him, some travellers have petitioned the ministry over the issue, insisting that the cost of usage of trolleys is covered by certain taxes and charges paid by passengers.
“We have had discussions with FAAN on this and we have decided that as soon as this contract ends, we will return to the old system,’’ he said.
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