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How to fix airports, by Reps committee chairman

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Local aviation has enough to fill suitcases, stakeholders reply
The Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, Nnaji Nnolim, yesterday said the industry required more empirical data and calculation to decide how best to address airport infrastructure deficit.

Nnolim, who was crossed between more funding by the Federal Government or concession to private sector, said it behooved on the stakeholders to chart the path to efficient and speedy solution.

Speaking at the Nigeria travel mart colloquium, Nnolim said the airports were in dire straits, and in no way comparable with similar facilities around the world.

He said while solution to the problem is diverse and not new, “the technicality of the aviation industry on this subject, which involves drawing a conclusion on whether to privatise government-owned airports or not is far beyond breakfast discussion.”

“It is a sensitive matter that requires empirical data and calculation, which will enable us to arrive at a point of final conclusion, and as a member of the legislature will equip me with enough information to decide on what direction to pursue,” he said.

The pharmacist and businessman turned politician, therefore, called for detailed work to be done in determining what direction the future of airport operation and management should go.

Nnolim, representing Nkanu East/Nkanu West Federal Constituency, said the modern trend was to earn huge revenue from airports, with multipurpose businesses.

Unfortunately, Nigeria has not exploited even up to 10 per cent of the possible non-aeronautical revenues because the airports were not yet developed to the level of harnessing the revenue potential available on the land side.

“This is why in my contribution during the preliminary debate on the 2020 Budget on the floor of the House of Representatives, a couple of days ago, I suggested that the remittances from Internally Generated Revenues (IGRs) of the aviation sector should be retained for the next ten years for the development of aviation infrastructures.”

However, the Chief Executive Officer of Ropeways Transport Limited, Capt. Dapo Olumide, disagreed with the lawmaker, saying the main problem was not the lack of data, but the consistent use of a failed model.

Olumide said the 40-year-old Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos alone had enough data to fill suitcases.

“So, the issue is not empirical data, but going round in circles for 40 years on how to develop our airports. The model of government-owned airport we have been employing has not worked. So, let us try something else like the private sector running the airports for a period of 15 years,” Olumide said.

The CEO of Kitari Consult Limited, Ali Magashi, added that the aviation industry in Nigeria was still at infancy, and the government should not relent in developing them to potential.

Magashi said investors would only be attracted to viable airports like Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano, and therefore makes economic sense to privatise them, but not others.

Convener of the colloquium, Simon Tunba, noted that over the last few years the Federal Government had made investments to enhance the customer experience at Lagos, Abuja, Enugu, Port Harcourt, Kaduna and Kano airports. But Nigeria is still lagging behind despite the efforts of the Federal Airports of Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).

“The Federal Government has approved N14 billion to renovate MMIA, which is nearly $40 million. Taking cognisance of the dwindling revenue of the government, very demanding social needs and the increase of our debt profile as a nation, one may say the government is doing its best.

“However, $40 million is not enough for an emerging market like Nigeria, a country with every potential to be a global hub. The government needs to think out of the box.

“The government should explore a Public Private Partnership (PPP) and concession our airports carrying along the workforce at FAAN. With Nigeria’s God given natural and Human Resources, and a solid leapfrogging plan and strategy, we should be aiming for a futuristic airport of $2-5billion,” Tumba said.


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