Sunday, September 09, 2007


I arrived at Lagos airport at 2pm this afternoon to the usual chaos - touts, noise, everywhere people helter skelter and no information about which airline is leaving next. As I had a big ghana-mus-go with me, it was not easy checking each desk to find out who was leaving for Abuja. Bellview was fully booked, but some guy whispered that he could 'arrange it.' I laughed.

The only available flight was Aero at 19:45, with check-in at 18:30. I bought my ticket and resigned myself to a few hours in the utter discomfort of the domestic terminal's departure lounge. The place was crowded, with not a spare seat in sight, so I bought a Star, sat on the floor and opened up my laptop. I'm sure a hundred minds were thinking in unison 'these oyinbo/onyeocha/baturi people sha.'

The hall slowly emptied as flights to Calabar and Kaduna left. At 18:30 I was alone in the hall (strange I thought). The Aero counter was awash with arguments. The simple task of sticking a number to the ticket and checking in luggage was clearly a bit too difficult for an airline

with decades of experience of dealing with the Nigerian factor. People were pulling at each other, cutting the queue - all the usual desperate tactics. I did my bit to calm people down and chill the line down some.

Then it was my turn. I checked in my gmg, only to be told the plane was not leaving from this terminal - we would have to go by bus to the new terminal. I had visions of buses never arriving and planes leaving without us...

How wrong I was. After 5 minutes, a minibus arrived and whisked us to MMA2 as it is known. It was at this point that the frustrations of the near 6 hour wait washed away. MMA2 is easily the best designed, smartest, swishest etc etc airport in Nigeria. The main concourse is huge - cathedral sized. There's a quiet hum of efficiency about the place, with escalators leading up to the various levels. Apparently, it only opened yesterday - for the Aero flights. I took a sneaky picture of the main concourse on the way up (the second picture here) - only to find that others were taking pictures in the departure lounge with abandon. No one in a uniform came up and did a militaristic admonishment. Wow. The guy behind me in the queue for the scanners couldnt contain himself. He called someone up, "Hi. Yes its me. I'm in the new domestic terminal. Its soooo beautiful.' Inside the departure lounge, the waiting travellers seemed at ease with the world like I have not seen in a Nigerian airport before. Let's hope that the big spaces they have for retail are filled with cafes and enjoyably designed and laid out shops, rather than the Mama-Put excuses the old airport had..

Even though the security situation has gone from dire to terrible in the past few days, the new MMA2 airport is something to be proud of in Nigeria. It just goes to show how important good design is in any society.


Giles,  11:50 pm  

It does look good! I'd like to see a bit more though. Nigeria deserves decent architecture.

Uche,  12:22 am  

Its about time!! I'm impressed. For a moment there i had to do a double take on the pictures when you said domestic terminal. But yeah, since it just opened, i am, without a doubt, impressed. All other airports needs to follow suit.

I hear Beyonce singing "Upgrade U' in my background.

Daisy 2:35 am  

How encouraging :-)

Frances Uku 3:00 am  

wait, what?! this MMA you speak of, is that MMA as in Murtala Mohammed International Airport? i can only stare in awe.

Afolabi 3:20 am  

it must have been a funny sight to see a man of your race (trying to be politically correct) carrying a ghana must go bag...

Africanloft 4:42 am  

Do you have any picture of the old terminal to do a comparison? The new one looks really slick. It comes with a parking ramp, right?

Jeremy 8:13 am  

@ Ms Uku: nope, its the new DOMESTIC terminal. MMA1 continues to be as you remember it: old and decrepit - a bit like Heathrow..

Anonymous,  10:08 am  

Its the change of guard Jeremy. Wale Babalakin (Chairman of Stabilini- company responsible for MMA2) is a go getter!!! What these guys have done is inspiring!! Inspite of all the problems Nigeria has, they are getting on with life and giving us great infrastructure. If we all grumbled less and do more in our individual endeavours, Naija will be far better. I hope the airport is well maintained sha!

Anonymous,  11:45 am  

Uh..Wale Babalakin in a Go Getter into His Account-er! Shaaaady character with all the outward trappings, 1st from Cambrige or Oxford etc to make you trust him. how did he become chairman of stabilini? Dont post this, of course, just a bit of backstory..Doesnt take away from fab achievement of course, but BOB quite the gangsta!

anonymaus,  2:34 pm  

"Ah, Ah look at now! See Nigeria - O!!! "
Yes, the country is capable, let us hope they can sustain the order, cleanliness and maintenance and be proactive in the running of the terminal, and hopefully this will be infectious and spread throughout the nation.

Dami 2:55 pm  

wow looks soo slick!!

Funmi Iyanda 3:52 pm  

fantastic! how uplifting.

MsMak,  4:47 pm  

Very nice! Now, can we save these pictures and do a comparison say, 1 year, 3 years and 5 years from now?

Our biggest problem re: infrastructure has always been maintenance. National Theatre is a good example...

Anonymous,  6:01 pm  

Oga, Jeremy, might I remind you, before you say "MMA2 is good", that this is Nigeria we are talking about. Look up Ajaoukta, look up National Theatre Nigeria, and you'll begin to understand why Nigeria has not gone anywhere in the past ~5 decades of "independence". Maintaining infrastructure is something we simply have no idea how to do, and I expect that in the next couple of years (I say, give it 2 years), it will be another wild marketplace, just like the regular MMA airport.

There is a reason Nigeria is a ramshackle carcass of a country. There is hardly anything to celebrate in MMA2. First, let them maintain it for 2 years. If after 2 years, we haven't heard of planes crashing into the building, or of cows sitting down with the pasengers as they awaut their flights, then we can celebrate. Until then, na just premature celebrations.

Anonymous,  6:30 pm  

great, fantastic, beautiful, well done...
sorry, what percentage of the population travels by air?
classic Nigeria: grand gesture full of conspicuous expenditure benefiting very few. Lets hope it doesn't get destroyed by a poorly maintained plane crashing into it.
Now, what of roads?

Giles,  8:51 pm  

Very interesting but largely superficial comments; it confirms that our people do appreciate the aesthetic value of architecture. However Architecture is thin on te ground hence mediocre 'vauxhall conference' architecture suddenly becomes Great!. There are infinite possibilities that stretch beyond mere formal gymnastics. I'm sure Abuja airport evoked the same reaction, just as the joke that serves NCC is hailed as architecture. sadly as long as a building does some sort of formal gymnastics then yes it is good design. There is a lack of understanding of the rigour of architecture, infact most nigerians do not even know about the process of architecture, and assume draughting equals design... 'draw me a plan' is the usual instruction from the most sophisticated of nigerian client as he contemplates calling Baba sikiru the builder to deliver the bilding [an air of distrust and distaste hanging as the impoverished architect tries to engage in a dialogue//] it is appalling as it underscores the cultural deficiencies in our so called 'modern society'. Our built envirnment deserves deep thought and immense rigour. Architecture as process is cerebral first and tactile second, then the spatial emerges for consumption. The experience of great architecture must impact the emotions; with light and material fusing to produce harmony. I weep every time I see the crap going up in Nigeria and whilst this terminal is a welcome contrast to MMA1 I can't help feeling a lot more can be done. The airport building as type has undrgone quite an evoluton exemplified by the Fosters seminal Stanstead and more recently Lord Rogers Madrid. The Airport terminal has the potential to be a seminal piece capturing the aspirations of the society... what I see are dated details from the 1980's lots of painted plaster and drylining and steel work and cheap metal cladding in a mimicry of hi tech. There is an inconsitency of composition here! The new terminal at Zurich for instance is fairfaced concete, granite and metal and I must say it awakens powerful emotions ... this is architecture! not the crap delivered for a largely blind country.

Anonymous,  9:50 pm  

okay..just sat with admittedly jaded world traveller who said MMA 2 just a-aight. I said i knew a white boy who had waxed rhapsodical. He shrugged.Might have been frontin' naija style..

foxybrown,  10:12 pm  

Very impressive I'm sure.
My burning question is..
How on earth did you work up the courage to board a nigerian plane??
Abeg my oyinbo brother - fear dey catch me O! I no fit!

Anonymous,  2:08 am  


Anonymous,  2:10 am  


Cyber Caravan 12:46 pm  

While I fully agree with Gilles on what "great airport architecture" is all about, I must differ on his overall implied impression that this project is a failure. The purpose of this private project was to deliver badly needed airport infrastructure the govt. failed to deliver.
For a building that allegedly cost $250 million, I find there's a worrisome lack of good detailing. The ceilings look industrial (not sexy contemporary industrial, but mediocre factory from the suburbs).
The curtain wall is heavy and the flooring can be much better, again for the amount allegedly spent!
Gilles, the point I'm coming at is this: No doubt this private initiative is the *start* of better airports and architecture in Nigeria.
Don't forget that the local contractors are rather limited in what they can accomplish from a technical point of view. Alucobond aluminum panels have just arrived in the country (I doubt these ar ereal alucbond though, perhaps the installation was substandard). Better design something simple yet ambitious (yes, formal gymnastics are better than a box) than to opt for Chek Lap Kok or Heathrow Terminal 6 and end up with Surulere marketplace.

Chxta 5:04 pm  

What Lagos needs is another airport, not necessarily an expanded MMA.

Giles,  9:52 pm  

cyber caravan @ 12.46pm .
I didn't flay the PFI initiative or the benefits of this partnership nor allude to 'failure' of the project, I was merely critical of architecture in Nigeria, your reaction is a bit complacent, we deserve the best!!! to get the best we should NEVER accept second best, we must keep on saying WE DESERVE BETTER not just in architecture but in every single facet of our existence. My comments were more a heartfelt muse on the place of architecture in todays nigera. As our aspirations to position our country as the financial center of africa, we must realise that investment in the infrastructure must deliver more that the functional requirements. It is the duty of all involved to deliver a better built environment, which is linked to the social and economic. it then becomes an affirmation of the evolving aspiration as we all have to exist in the built environment. Design, Architecture and Urbanism are key components of any restorative process; in fact as we seek to script our future the best medium to project these is through these disciplines.
I think a healthy debate on our built environment and it's role in society is critical as it is the crucible that holds our successes and failures.

Atutupoyoyo 2:02 pm  

Very impressive pictures.

Nigerian Woman in Norway 11:04 am  

good design in public places calms people down. it's what lagos needs.

Gbemi's Piece 2:51 pm  

Amazing! Glad you were actually able to take pictures. My camera was seized in Jos a few years ago when I tried to take pictures OUTSIDE the airport. Anyway, this is a grand departure from what we had originally so I'd say that this is PROGRESS and very welcome indeed.

warri's finest 1:10 pm  

this is defintely an upgrade from the current airport, now we just have to pray they maintain it. really nice Pictures by the way

Ifediora 2:15 pm  

Great observation Jeremy. I felt the same way going back to Enugu last saturday. "Wow! I thought", and started snapping away from the departure lounge to the food court and all the way to the parking lot! MMA2 is world class, a breath of fresh air and very well deserving edifice for our great country.

Next, Akanu Ibiam Airport, Enugu.

Anengiyefa 12:06 pm  

Let us not forget that MMA1 was modelled after Schiphol in Amsterdam. Meaning of course that Schiphol was in existence before MMA1 was even conceived. But visit Schiphol today, and the place still looks like new. The floors are still shiny, the elevators and escalators are in perfect condition, everything works like clockwork. MMA1 on the other hand is like a relic from some by gone era. Let us hope and pray that MMA2 does not suffer the same fate.

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