Discontent Grows As States Spend Over N350bn On Non-viable Airports

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By ANTHONY AWUNOR,

Taxpayers in some states of the federation have started to express growing discontent over billions of money being spent on the construction of airports by many state governments even as they raised concerns over the viability of such airport projects.

Apart from the 25 airports being managed by the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), many state governments have since embraced airport projects both as a status symbol and a conduit pipe to syphon huge funds from the government’s purse. But not a few analysts view such efforts as a conduit and waste of public resources.

LEADERSHIP findings have revealed that, about 20 states have cumulatively spent and budgeted about N350 billion on existing and proposed airport projects.

The states that have either proposed or built airports are: Bauchi, Katsina, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Jigawa, Kebbi, Gombe and Taraba, even as Ekiti, Nasarawa, Osun, Ogun, Zamfara, Abia, Anambra, Oyo and Lagos states wrap up plans to build their own.

LEADERSHIP investigations show that states that have successfully executed airport projects include: Delta (N40 billion); Bauchi (N7.9 billion); Katsina (N11 billion); A/Ibom (N18 billion); Delta (N40 billion); Jigawa (N15.5 billion); Kebbi (N17 billion); Gombe (N7 billion);Taraba (N10 billion)

It was also discovered that states with proposed airports portfolio are Ekiti (N22 billion); Osun (N11 billion); Nasarawa (N20 billion); Zamfara (N28 billion); Anambra (N20 billion) Ogun (N22 billion); Lagos (N102 billion)

In separate interviews with LEADERSHIP, some stakeholders in some of the states with existing and proposed airport projects warned state governors who are fond of dabbling into building of airports unprepared, emphasizing that such white elephant projects are the major cause of airports not being viable as expected.

“It is patronage by airlines that make any airport viable. How many airlines that come in determines its viability. With increased traffic, the economic activities will improve too which positively impacts on the people. State created airports are most times politically motivated. When they build and it is not functional, they hand over to the Federal Airports Authority and sometimes, the airlines may not get enough passengers to continue to patronize the airport”, a Lagos-based aviation expert said.

The experts also said lack of critical infrastructure; patronage and political factors are responsible for the underutilisation of some of the airports in the country, making them not viable in terms of positive and optimal contributions to the nation’s economy.

They said only four out of the over 25 domestic and international airports in the country are viable, which amounts to a meagre 16 per cent of the total number of airports across the country.

The four considered to be viable airports are Murtala Mohammed International Airport, (MMIA) Lagos; Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA) Kano, Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA) Abuja and Port Harcourt International Airport (PHIA), Port Harcourt while others are not rated as viable airports.

Speaking on why some airport are not viable, Secretary General of the Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP), Comrade Abdul Rasaq Saidu said that the mainstay of any airport, be it local or international is patronage, which determines how many airlines that make use of the airport.

“With increased patronage, more airlines would come and that will definitely boost passengers’ traffic. When the passenger traffic is high, it would also trickle down on the economic situation of the place where the airport is located and sometimes may turn it into an economic hub”, Saidu said.

Commenting on why some airports are more viable than others, the Airport Manager of Port Harcourt International Airport (PHIA), Engr C A Nwobu, told LEADERSHIP that what makes the airports viable are the critical infrastructures which, in turn makes operations very easy.

In his own views, the Airport Manager of Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu Mr. Mgbemena Orjiakor said any standard airport should have security, infrastructure, water, adequate air traffic and other facilities to be able to function and remain viable.

On the current state of Enugu airport, the airport manager added “We are following due process. The most important thing in an airport is the runway. We tell them that they should not worry and that we will get a better place for them and that we will keep improving. We have Servicom Desk at the airport. We have been getting pass marks in some areas. We pray it doesn’t affect the flight operations.”