Lagos: The Island City

By By David Esler
Source: Business & Commercial Aviation

Fueling is conducted on the FBO or general aviation terminal ramps, but operators advise to allow lots of time for the process as the airlines often receive preference. For expedience, it's advised to have the operator's local handler coordinate fueling with the on-site fuel broker, SO Aviation, and to make sure that all fees (including landing, parking, servicing, etc.) at the airport are invoiced directly to the operator's handing service to ensure accuracy in charging.

Two years ago, another pilot, David Fussell of Rhema Aviation in Tulsa, who crewed a Bombardier Challenger 601 into Lagos, reported on the NBAA “Feedback” page that “Your skill and fortitude will be tested here.” He advised operators to bring engine inlet and other airframe covers, claiming that while on the ground at DNMM the aircraft will be “blasted” by exhaust, wind, dust and trash and be “filthy” after a three-day stay. Speaking to BCA, Fussell also warned flight crews heading into Lagos airspace that controllers often will not immediately acknowledge radio calls. “The radio traffic can really be intense,” he said. “You will hear pilots making repeated calls, their voices getting more and more frustrated. Just keep calling and be patient; eventually they'll answer you.”

If having passengers picked up on the ramp (often a security requirement for “high-value” individuals), the operator will need to arrange for vehicles with airside access passes. While good brand-name hotels can be found downtown on Lagos and Victoria Islands, crews generally choose to stay as close to the airport as possible; a Sheraton just outside the gates is a popular hostelry. (It is being reported that ExecuJet has proposed building a hotel on airport property specifically to accommodate flight crews who wish to stay close to their aircraft.)

On departure from the country, the operator's handler will process outbound customs, as it is mandatory to clear CIQ when leaving. Both crew and passenger luggage is subject to screening both ways.

The Security Issue

Airport authorities maintain “reasonable security,” Linton said, “but you can hire additional security, which is recommended if staying overnight.” There are different opinions on wheth er supplemental security is necessary in Nigeria. Lane believes that the issues of crime and terrorism in the country are exaggerated and that, at least at the airport, additional security is unnecessary. “An aircraft guard will make you sleep better but will likely get more sleep than you do,” he observed.

Fussell noted that “there were lots of folks loitering . . . airside” at DNMM and recommended hiring additional security for the aircraft. (A representative of African handling agency Landover Aviation confirmed the presence of loiterers on the airport ramp, advising operators they could be approached by various people demanding cash for services. His advice was to deal only with the local representative hired by the operator's handling service, especially if it is necessary to pay for anything on site.) In any event, operators and their security advisors will have to make their own security assessments, with the understanding that if there are any doubts, it is always best to err on the side of caution.

Here's Linton's appraisal of the situation beyond the airport perimeter: “Crime is very high in Lagos. Carjackings, kidnappings, road block robberies [road piracy] and armed break-ins are common. It's been reported that some crooks even impersonate the uniformed police and military. Road travel is dangerous throughout the country. Avoid driving at night, and always use a reliable vehicle contractor vetted by your security company. Taxies and public transportation tend to be old, poorly maintained and generally unsafe. If you will be moving around in major Nigerian cities — any of them — we definitely recommend 'executive protection' [i.e., bodyguards].”

Furthermore, highway conditions throughout Nigeria are generally poor due to lack of maintenance of roads and debris strewn on them, and traffic conditions in the larger cities are often among the worst on the planet. “Get a good driver,” Lane said. “The traffic will rival anything you have ever seen.” Expect a minimum of an hour from the airport to the downtown business district.

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