The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, has said that the inefficient use of Nigeria’s international airports and the airports operating below expectations were some of the reasons the airports were put up for concession.
According to the minister, Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano were not intended to be international airports, but due to the lack of funds for the repairs, prospective private handlers of the airports are expected to upgrade their infrastructure.
He also said that the Federal Government is committed to upgrading the airports in the country and making them viable through concession.
“The airports in Nigeria are currently operating suboptimally as there is relatively low asset utilisation due to the limited opening hours of other smaller domestic airports; lack of terminal capacity as the airports fall short of gates, stands and check-in desks.
“An overstretched facility is the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos terminal, built-in 1979 for 200,000 passengers, but currently processes nearly eight million flyers,” Sirika said.
As a result of concessioning the airports, the government has relinquished management of the airports to private investors, who will be responsible for making sure the airports achieve global standards.
The airports will be upgraded to meet modern demands, something most Nigerian airports lack, thereby resulting in increased operational efficiency and profitability.
While some in the industry support concession, aviation unions claim it would exacerbate the financial crisis facing the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and cripple 18 other airports in the country.
The unions say FAAN should have to repay the $1 billion loan used to build the terminals, fulfil its financial responsibilities to its staff and pensioners, remit 25 per cent of its revenue to the federation account and maintain the remaining 18 airports.
He clarified that the best method to ensure the development of the airport facilities is through concessions. He revealed that airport upgrade is a key component of his aviation master plan, which aims to revamp the sector through private investment to make it self-sustaining.
Among the key objectives of the aviation master plan are the establishment of a national carrier; a maintenance, repair and overhaul centre; an aviation leasing company; the establishment of five airport free zones; and the establishment of an agro-allied cargo terminal.