Nigeria’s air transport makes progess amid challenges
There is no gainsaying the fact that the Nigerian aviation sector is plagued with myriads of challenges, which include: inadequate safety, security and surveillance equipment, parlous infrastructure and obsolete equipment, large number of unemployed trained professional Nigerian aviators, high debt profile of domestic airline operators, over-bloated work force in the aviation agencies, and difficulties in accessing foreign exchange by operators.
Others are poor and intolerable conditions of airport facilities and equipment, including delays in check-in, security screening and baggage pick up, high cost of operations, rising price and scarcity of aviation fuel, import duties on aircraft engine and spare, as well as budgetary constraints.
In spite of the numerous challenges, the International Air Transportation Association (IATA), in a recent study acknowledged that the Nigeria air transportation sector has contributed over $1.7 billion as well as provided 241,000 jobs. The government’s aim is to grow the sector from the current 0.6 per cent to five per cent, which is about $14.16 billion.
While many are of the opinion that growth in the aviation sector could only double after 15 years, the Nigeria aviation industry is currently erasing the trends. Presently, the number of airports, including those being developed, has doubled. The passenger number has doubled, other entrepreneurship, including catering and ground handling has blossomed and the number of airlines and jobs has multiplied.
The former Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, did put up a roadmap to address the numerous challenges in the sector, with key deliverables that include establishment of a National Carrier, development of Agro-Allied /Cargo Terminals, establishment of Maintenance, Repairs and Overhaul (MRO) Centre, establishment of an Aviation Leasing Company (ALC), development of aerotropolis (Airport Cities), establishment of an Aviation & Aerospace University, concession of five International Airports (Abuja, Lagos, Enugu, Kano and Port Harcourt).
Others include upgrade of the Nigeria College of Aviation Technology (NCAT into an International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) regional training centre of excellence, designation of four International airports as apecial economic zones, introduction of policies on remotely piloted aircraft, adherence to employment Policies on the Enforcement of expatriate quota, upgrade of AIB to a multi-modal Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB).
The mission statement of Nigerian Aviation, under the former Minister, was to have strong domestic carriers, Aviation Leasing Company, establishment of the Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul centre contribution of up to six per cent to national GDP, development of Lagos and Abuja airport as regional hubs, establishment of world class terminal buildings at local and international airports, provision of State-of-the-art equipment for safe air navigation, weather observation and forecasting, safety and security, strong National Carrier that is purely public-private sector driven and can compete effectively in the international aviation market.
While stakeholders have felt that the content of the road map are too ambitious and might end up as the usual government jamboree, the former Minister, a seasoned technocrat in the aviation industry, has ensured each item in the roadmap is implemented, even if it’s not to a logical conclusion.
Interestingly, the shutting down of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA) runway for six weeks to allow repairs and reconstruction of the dilapidated runway coupled with the diversion of flights to Kaduna Airport got the minister a lot of accolades
Recall that the Abuja airport was on March 9, temporarily shut for repairs of its only runway. The runway has been in use since the airport was built in 1982, and expired some 14 years ago. After much debate for and against, the rehabilitation exercise was awarded for the sum of N5.8 million, while Abuja-bound traffic is diverted to recently upgraded Kaduna International Airport (KIA).
During the opening of the runway, Sirika had announced plans to build the second runway at the ever busy NAIA to serve as an alternative in case of mishaps. As at today the second runway was awarded at the cost of N92.1 billion and it is 56 per cent completed.
As of today the Nigeria Aviation sector of the designation of Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) Training Centre as ICAO Aviation Security Training Centre of Excellence, also the Aviation Security (AVSEC) has been approved to bear arms.
Similarly the Aviation Act was also signed, namely Civil Aviation Act 2022, Nigerian Airspace Management Act 2022, Federal Airports Authority Act 2022, Nigerian Meteorological Act 2022, Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau Act 2022, Nigerian College of Aviation Technology Act 2022.
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