- The plan by the federal government to concession four of its airports to private investors has been a trending topic in the aviation industry
- Since the plan was announced, most aviation stakeholders have registered their support for the plan
- Leading the charge in this regard is the minister of aviation, Captain Hadi Sirika
When President Muhammadu Buhari announced the appointment of Captain Hadi Sirika as Nigeria's aviation minister, the reaction across the country indicated that president made the right choice.
Sirika, 53, a retired pilot, was seen as a perfect fit for the job, given his background as a major stakeholder in the Nigerian aviation industry.
One of the policy thrust of Sirika's almost two years in charge of the aviation ministry is his determination to concession the international airports in Nigeria.
Interestingly, the move by the minister has gained support within and outside Nigeria, as many say concession is the way forward to address the deplorable conditions in majority of the airports.
While those who are kicking against the minister's move might have genuine reasons for doing so, it is important to state that concessioning is the best way to meet modern demands which most Nigerian airports lack.
What is concessioning? It simply means when a government concedes an airport to private investors, that is, relinquishing management of the facility for a private concern.
NAIJ.com lists the advantages of concessioning Nigerian airports below:
1. Countries with the best airports around the world are those who had long privatised or concessioned their airport terminals. Private investors make sure airports measure up to global standards as it is an advantage to their business and reputation as a corporate entity.
2. The best way the aviation industry can contribute to Nigeria's Gross Domestic Product is through concessioning. At a time the federal government is intensely looking for other sources of income due to dwindling oil prices in the international market, concessioning would help the aviation industry contribute significantly to Nigeria's GDP.
3. Concessioning will ensure domestic airlines make profit and navigational facilities at airports work efficiently.
4. Concession will ensure Nigerian airports start running effectively, which will make Nigeria become an attractive aviation hub. Currently, Nigeria has 5 international airports and 22 domestic airports. On a yearly basis, 15 million people fly in and out of the country. With concessioning in place, Nigeria can do between 70 and 100 million passengers annually, within the next five years.
5. Concession is the panacea to airport funding and development, as government is incapacitated in funding due to other priority projects competing for government's attention.
6. Concession the world over is a means of reducing a nation's deficit in infrastructural provision engendered by the disproportionate growth in population and the available resources for national development.
7. The Nigerian government has showed consistently over the years that it can't run a business. Examples abound like Nigerian Airways, NITEL, NEPA e.t.c
8. Concessioning will create thousands of jobs, stimulate tourism and hospitality sub-sectors, facilitate skills and technology acquisition and project positive image for the Nigerian aviation sector and the country in general.
9. Concessionaire agreements have become the global standard of public assets management and it is only proper for Nigeria to join the bandwagon for the benefit of its people.
10. Concession will help reduce the number of abandoned airports across the country which disfigure the national landscape in a cynical manner.
The reasons above shows that the time for concessioning is now and Captain Sirika and his team at the federal ministry of aviation should go ahead with the plan.
There is no gainsaying that Nigeria’s airports have become a national embarrassment.
NAIJ.com checks indicates that no Nigerian airport featured in Africa’s Top 10 in a 2016 survey, while three South African airports, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durham, as well as Kigali in Rwanda made the list.
To make matters worse, Port Harcourt was once ranked the world’s worst international airport.
Sirika paints the ideal picture of the situation by saying: “Government does not have money to put into these businesses and we don’t want to sell these facilities either; so that is why we are concessioning them because it is the only way to go.
“Just to illustrate, Murtala Mohammed airport was built to cater for 200,000 people per annum but today it is doing eight million. The toilets and lifts in the airport were meant to serve 200,000 people per annum but now is serving eight million per annum. There is no single addition on that airport and we are growing as a people.
“At the time it was built we were 60 million people today we are 173 million. And we cannot continue to let the airport be like that and we do not have the money to invest and develop this airport.
“In our opinion as a government and the policy has been done that it will go through concession, to give to some individuals who will build, operate, maintain, sustain, make money and government will also make money in the process and return to government after a number of years between 20 to 25 years. This will be transparently done, this is the catch phrase, so we are proceeding."
In a related development, there was power failure at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, (MMIA), Lagos about a month ago, which grounded activities for more than one hour before the battle to restore electricity in the ever busy airport was successful.
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