Nigeria aviation in 2017: Slowly recovering

Posted: January 8, 2018 in general


The country’s aviation sector beyond the ever recurring labour crises, flight delays, shortcomings in infrastructure, and government’s ill-advised decisions, appeared to have taken a back seat in the year 2017 as appreciable improvements were recorded both by the government and the airline operators.

The face-off between labour unions and the federal government over the concession agreement for the four viable airports in the country, namely; the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Ikeja, Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja, the Port Harcourt International Airport Omagba, and the Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, continued into the year as protests dominated discourse all through the year pitching the various labour bodies in the country with the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika.

The controversial concession plans has dogged the tenure of Hadi Sirika since his appointment two years as Minister of State for Aviation, when the arrangement was first announced to stakeholders, as well as the plethora of meetings which followed aimed at wooing the various parties.

Originally listed for concessions were the country’s high revenue yielding airports in Port Harcourt, Kano, Lagos and Abuja, which committees including; a Project Steering Committee, and a Project Delivery Committee, have already been inaugurated with a directive to commence implementation of the process.

However, despite the outcome of previous meetings and negotiations yet unresolved, the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in 2017 moved ahead to announce that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved the concession of both the MMIA and NAIA airports to ‘improve their efficiency and service delivery.’

“We are working hard to make the airports more passenger friendly, but then we have several issues. Infrastructure is in a terrible state and we know that public sector has a poor record on maintenance of facilities.

“Partnership with the private sector is not only a policy, it is the most sensible thing to do and our approach is to engage, work collaboratively to take criticisms and suggestions seriously and to respond,” Osinbajo said.

Commenting, Comrade Ahmed Danjuma, Chairman Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) said concession was not the way out of the present challenges facing the agency.

Ahmed said misplacement of priority and politicians’ intervention in the running of the system by flooding the agencies especially FAAN with workers employed without consulting the management of the organisations.

The union leader explained that most of the airports were built for political reasons without considering the economic benefits to the nation adding that most of these airports depended largely on the viable airports to survive.

According to Ahmed, airports in other countries survive because they are maintained with the revenue generated by the same airport saying that reverse remained the case in Nigeria.

“Airports across the globe survive because they sustain the airport with generated revenue by those  airports but in Nigeria, we use the generated revenue from international Airport Lagos, to maintain others.”

Also, Secretary General Association of the Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP), Comrade Abdulrasaq Saidu, pointed out that the Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Airspace Management Authority (NAMA), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the igerian Meteorological  Agency (Nimet) resolved at their Zonal Council meeting Tuesday,  to oppose any form of concession in view of past and present corrupt tendencies being applied to favour few individuals

“We say no to it and shall fight it with the last blood of our Union, we wrote to PMB (President Muhammadu Buhari) of the danger to security of Nigeria. We asked questions unanswered which must be given full details,” Saidu said.

Stressing that almost all the revenue points at the airports have been concessioned, Saidu raised the alarm that that nothing was left.

However, Chairman of Air Peace , Mr Allen Onyema, backed the Federal Government move, saying that the decision was a step in the right direction on the grounds that the ‘Murtala Muhammed Airport 2 that is being run privately, is the best airport in Nigeria.’

“Government has no business in doing business and that is the truth: If the Federal Government now decides to concession the airports, that is the right thing to do. Look at the Murtala Muhammed Airport 2 that is being run privately, it is the best airport in Nigeria,” Onyema said.

Onyema noted that the only fear was that some of the workers might lose their jobs due to the fact that the investors would streamline operations to cut cost.

For, Chairman of Century Security, Group Capt John Ojukutu (rtd), however, there was no clear terms as to what the government want to concession, even as he called on the government to declare the areas it wants to concession, warning that the airside was a no-go area for them to concession.

The former Airport Commandant urged the government to invite the corporate sector players in the country to take over the management of the airport terminal buildings, even as he urged that anyone taking over the Lagos Airport and Abuja airports must also take responsibility of smaller airports under these two airports.

He queried the rationale behind the concession of only two airports out of the over 22 airports across the country, calling for the concession of all the airports in the country, noting that Federal Government was not concentrating on the real issues in the aviation sector.

However, the bright side remains the announcement by the Nigerian Civil aviation Authority (NCAA), through its spokesperson, Mr Sam Adurogboye, in January that Nigeria had climbed to Level 3 State Safety Programme (SSP) Implementation Process, joining countries like the U.S. and the United Kingdom in this echelon.

This in addition to the certification of the MMIA in Lagos and NAIA in Abuja by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) through the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), as well as the runway rehabilitation of the NAIA, and the commencement of the runway project of the long-maligned Akanu Ibiam Airport in Enugu which commenced in December by the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).

Perhaps, one of the biggest fallouts of the airport runway rehabilitation was the diversion of flights to the under-utilized Kaduna airport that has now seen the facility continue to attract the patronage of airline including the Ethiopian Airlines, which assured its commitment to remain on the route.

In addition, the United States-based carrier, Delta Air Lines, announced its readiness to open a new Lagos-New York route to complement the existing Lagos-Atlanta route, which it said was in fulfillment of its target to expand the Nigeria-United States market.

However, issues revolving around airport security and baggage handling blighted the year’s achievement for the industry in the face of luggage thefts that rented the media space in December following latest complaints by top music acts in the country who raised the alarm over loss of their personal effects to which the FAAN unprofessionally labeled as ‘baseless.’

While the FAAN may have come under heavy stick for its shocking reaction to the incident, complaints over lost luggage at the nation’s airports have become a recurring one which the recent directive by Vice President Osinbajo’s on Ease on Doing Business at the airports should expectedly have addressed in the year.

For some indigenous carriers, 2017 was a positive one as though the recurring complaints of over-taxation remained, they also found time to celebrate industry achievements. Dana received its long-expected Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) Certification of the International Air Transport Association (IATA); as well as new entrants, Air Peace, all in 2017.

This is also as another indigenous carrier, Med-View, commenced international flight operations to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, with plans to head to Europe. Air Peace also expanded operations across the West African sub-region with commencement of the Freetown-Banjul-Dakar flights.


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