Richard Aisuebeogun, a former managing director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), has called for immediate expansion of airport facilities and upgrade of landing aids to meet projected annual passenger demand of 30 million by 2030. He said that if the current decay is not arrested, Nigeria would have to spend $50 billion for total revamp of the facilities.
Aisuebeogun noted that Nigeria has suffered infrastructure deficit of public utilities due to complacency, lack of commitment to nation building and inefficient utilisation of government resources.
He reasoned that government must get the private sector involved in the development of airport infrastructure to move at the pace needed to end the decay going on at the nation’s airports to be able to meet the passenger demand. According to him, passenger traffic is growing at 6-7 per cent annually; although it is subjected to other socio-economic variables, such as the growth in GDP and disposable income, especially with the active population (the middle class).
Aisuebeogun said the airport infrastructure such as the runway, apron, terminals and others need to be revamped or upgraded in order to avert huge expenditure that would become inevitable in future if action is not taken now.
He recalled that in 2012, the Chinese government gave Nigeria $500 million to build four terminals at four major airports in the country, which meant that $125 million was spent on each terminal, noting that this could be extrapolated to indicate the cost of a modern airport terminal.
The former managing director of FAAN said that in Nigeria, the private sector is only contributing about 46 per cent of the funds in airport development, which means that government, and its agencies are contributing 54 per cent but in other parts of the world, the private sector is major financier of airport infrastructure.
He said that government needs substantial part of its resources to provide essential needs for the citizenry, so government should expect foreign direct investment to be able to provide the citizens essential needs, which include infrastructure, healthcare and education.
Furthermore, he said that it is estimated that $4.4 billion would accrue to Nigerian aviation sector by 2018 from the private sector if government provides the enabling environment for private capital investment in airport development.
Aisuebeogun said presently government is under pressure to reduce spending on airport infrastructure due to other contending needs, so it has to mobilise private capital for new investment.
On how poor airport infrastructure and lack of capacity affect the growth of airlines that operate in such airports, the CEO of Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi said: “There are ways you can look at it. There is one I call the main infrastructure, the deficiency of infrastructure, meaning physical tarmac, the fingers and all that.
If they are not available it would make it very difficult for airlines to bring more aircraft. If more aircraft are brought it makes it very difficult to position those aircraft for boarding and de-boarding of passengers. If that space is restricted because of lack of development of the airport facilities, it will affect the growth of any airline.
“We saw it years back during the introduction of new aircraft into the system by Arik Air then and now by Air Peace that is rapidly growing and expanding. The infrastructure might not support the expansion rate. As we speak now if we bring five new aircraft the infrastructure will be stretched to a limit. And that is also what airlines look at when they are expanding.
“For the airline there would be a lot of questions. Where will I park the airplane? How am I sure it won’t be pushed to an area that it would be scratched or damaged? Also the existing airlines that are operating, the seamless check-in procedure, the processing of their baggage and so on may be compromised,” Sanusi said.