Airports: No Alternative to Concession

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There is no viable alternative to the concession of all the major airports in Nigeria. While I do appreciate the sporadic agitations of the employees of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), there is glaring stagnation in the development, maintenance, and service delivery profile of the four major airports in the country. The recurring degradation of our aerodrome standards should be a major concern to all.

FAAN as a government agency has outlived its capacity to keep the airports viable to meet the required standards demanded for effective competiveness of the 21st century. It is needless to mention that 70% of FAAN’s revenue is spent on salaries and wages, with outright theft of the remaining 30%.

With over bloated workforce, and no feasible programme for airports upgrade, the airport authority’s efficiency is seriously in doubt.

Like other government enterprises, FAAN has become a conduit pipe for politicians to drain illegal funds, employ their relatives, and seek unperformed contracts.

It has become obvious that government has no business in improving and managing the airports. Private investors should takeover airport improvement, renovation, and operation.

It is always a natural reaction to resist change, even if it is for the better. Employees of FAAN would rather remain the in an agency that is clearly underperforming due to massive corruption, ineptitude, and dogmatism.

FAAN needs injection of new ideas and a positive change to enhance its service delivery motto. Concession will definitely enable new investors to favourably compete through innovation and upgrade of airport facilities.

Nigeria’s four major airports must be developed to world class standards instead of the regular substandard government operated terminal buildings.

For those who inherently are scared of losing their jobs, concessionaires would rather hire well-trained ex FAAN staff than spend money to train new employees. Therefore, more job creation will ensue through airport concession.

What most of us are weary of after the concession of the four lucrative airports is what will happen to the other 18 airports in the country. Will they remain under the existing FAAN management or a new company will be created to manage them.

It is much easier to concession all of them through other simple arrangements.

It is needless to reemphasize the economic role of airports in a country. The huge issue about airport development, improvement and management is: who should bear the burden of continued operation of the airports?

While the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has been saddled with operating and managing the 22 airports in the country, the most efficiently operated and managed airport in Nigeria still remains the MM2, which is part of the concession agreement with Bi-Courtney Aviation Services (BASL).

BASL has constantly kept the airport cleaned and serviceable with less government type-bureaucracy and inefficiency.

FAAN’s main revenues come from Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt. The ever-relegated Aminu Kano airport, which has huge growth potential is virtually underutilized. Therefore, at this point, it is more important to relieve FAAN of its burden by leasing out most of the airports in the country.

The core problem of airport improvement programme in Nigeria is government’s interference with what FAAN generates internally, and as long as the airports’ authority is tied directly to government’ s overbearing directive, there is no way Nigeria’s airports will function to international standards.

The Federal Airports Authority, if necessary, should select a few airports to manage and operate, with little or no government subvention. Private investors must be encouraged to take control of the other airports in other parts of the country with a view to increasing air traffic in to the fields for more revenue generation to sustain the investment.

Some states like Jigawa, Gombe and Delta have created the structure for air link into their state capitals, but failed to manage the airports on their own. Handing such investments to FAAN will surely limit air traffic growth into the field.

Private investors will scan for business from foreign and domestic airlines, FAAN won’t.

Transportation is basic to the economy of any region, but little credit is given to the vital role it plays in linking suppliers, manufacturers, and consumers into a productive and efficient pattern of distribution. This is especially true from the aviation standpoint.

Everyone is aware of the contribution of highways to the road transportation system because almost everyone drives a car.

Aviation is a key element in the transportation network but this fact is not publicized as well. The airlines do a fairly good job of letting the public know the importance of scheduled service at primary airports, but the public is usually unaware of the benefits derived from the general aviation industry.

The local airport is the principal gateway to the nation’s transportation system. A community’s lack of an airport can be as detrimental to its development as being bypassed by a major road network. Gombe, the capital of Gombe state has witnessed this development since the government of Danjuma Goje established an active airport there.

Communities that are not readily accessible to the airways may suffer economic penalties that can affect every local citizen-whether they fly in a general aviation aircraft, use the airline, or never have occasion to travel at all.

The airlines provide excellent service to many major metropolitan areas of the country, Abuja-Lagos, Portharcourt, and Kano, but thousands of smaller cities, towns, and villages also need air transportation service. There are close to 1000 incorporated communities in the 36 states of Nigeria and an additional 500 unincorporated communities. Since scheduled airlines serve fewer than 5 percent of the nation’s 22 airports with approximately 40 aircraft, there are a large number of communities and their citizens without immediate access to the fine airline system.

The airport has become vital to the growth of business and industry in a community by providing air access for companies that must meet the demands of supply, competition, and expanding marketing areas. There is little doubt that communities without airports place limitations on their capacity for economic growth. Obviously, FAAN should not be the sole operator of our airports, although, it is acceptable for FAAN to play active role in airports security in the nation.

Finally, there are issues surrounding the planning of future airport development, particularly the timing and location of demand growth and the role that the federal government will play in defining and meeting airport needs.

But since Nigeria is gearing towards privatization of most the economic sectors, it’s best for government to allow private hands in airports operation in the country. Of course, security at the airport must remain with FAAN and other law enforcement agencies.

 

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