AM EDITORIAL: State Government Owned, Non-Viable Airports That Have Become A Burden
Today, less than 20% of the over 32 airports across Nigeria, some of which are owned by state governments, are not viable based on the economics of airport business.
The Director General, Civil Aviation, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Musa Nuhu said at a webinar of the 2nd National Transport Technology Conference & Exhibition organized by the Nigerian Transport Commissioners’ Forum on September 12, 2023 that the non-viable airports across Nigeria have become a burden to the aviation agencies.
Most of the airports owned by state governments that were approved to operate as cargo airports have deviated from their establishment objectives and now operate as passenger airports. Increasingly, many of them are handing over the airports to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to manage, after setting them up, on discovering the daunting financial implications of such initiatives. This effect of lack of due diligence, raises leadership responsibility questions for such aerodrome owners.
The various aviation agencies that are by law required to remit 40% of their annual revenues to the federal government, are required to deploy more personnel and facilities as more airports are being handed over to them, amidst the capital intensive nature of training and welfare of the professionals required for posting as well as facilities for deployment. These and more challenges are contributors to the delayed certification of many airports in Nigeria which in turn, robbed off on the country’s performance in the recent Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) conducted by International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
Some aerodrome operators have also contributed to such delays. For instance, for a private airport, the aerodrome operator is supposed to request and pay Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) for calibration of facilities. Unfortunately, some of those airport facilities are not calibrated because the operator neither made such requests nor paid for the service.
It is equally important here to emphasize the need for aviation agencies to live up to their responsibilities so as to encourage committed private investments in airport business.
It is commendable that the NCAA has announced plans to commence audit of airports across the country as a measure towards phased certification.
There is nothing wrong with state governments and private concerns establishing airports. After all, in climes like United States of America that has about 20,000 airports, 14,400 of them are private airports, many of which are owned by state governments. However, the objective for establishment of airports by state governments in Nigeria, have to comply with globally acceptable standards where maintenance and sustainability plans form part of conception. To be factual, going by the status of many airports owned by state governments in Nigeria today, their existence lacks economic sense.
There is therefore a need to re-categorize all airports in the country. Looking at the huge cargo export potentials that Nigeria has, cargo airport designations should be reviewed and cargo export should be maximized, all relevant stakeholders working together.
Transparent concession to credible private concerns is also a measure that could help to improve the performance of airports across the country.
There is equally need to review the regulatory provisions for establishment of private airports and firm up implementation of appropriate regulations to address the increasing burden that state-government-owned or private airports pose on supervisory agencies. These and other measures will help reduce the national economic wastage involved in the preventable increasing number of non-viable airports across Nigeria.