Aviation Minister, Osita Chidoka at an interactive session with journalists last week exuded confidence and optimism as he elucidated his vision for the Nigeria aviation industry, Suleiman Idris captured the moments.
Do we really have aviation master plan in the country?
here is no master plan now, what we have is a roadmap. A master plan is a place where we do the study of the traffic projection by airport, zoning of the airport, future growth of the airport, the economic drive that would make the airport grow and others. If you go to Heathrow Airport today, it is currently building the fourth runway at the cost of 21bn pounds. So, in Nigeria, what we have done in our airport is that we have different buildings here and there, they are building a new terminal, bring down a building, but the future site of terminals were already in the master plan and each airport has its own master plan, but they need to be updated and brought to the current realities.
So, we are still going to advertise to get people to redo the master plans for the airport for the next 10 years. It is a living document; it’s not going to be a permanent thing. A master plan is a snap shot in time. So, because of the technologies available today, the knowledge we have today, we can create a master plan, but if after 20 years we are still forcing everybody without updating it, then, we are creating a problem. It’s like taking a photograph of you of 20 years ago and bringing it out now and asking you why you changed. In today’s Nigeria, we do not have a master plan for our airports. It’s not about a roadmap.
A master plan is the one that involves all stakeholders, operators, the airline and every other person; they come together to produce a document that serves the industry. When I came and they said there is a master plan and I said it is not a master plan but a road map and it can help as we can peg it into a master plan. A master plan would have avoided all the mistakes that we have today even the sighting of our new terminal that we are doing today. It would have even told us about the second runway in Abuja and whether we should have even put the new terminal where we have it now or we put it to the new site.
This is why we want to do a new master plan. What are your plans for revenue generation at the airports?
We have setup a committee to review airport charges, both aeronautical and passenger charges in Nigeria to be sure that they are in line with regional pricing. Because of our goal to be a regional hub, we must make sure that we don’t price ourselves out of the market and we must make sure that there is no waste in the agencies. We have to ensure that they are not taking the resources that are coming and spending it within the agencies.
So, we identified that there is need to review the charges of our agencies and enhance their revenue generation ability. We believe that the agencies should be able to remit to the federation account as stipulated by the fiscal responsibility act, 25 per cent of their gross earnings when we identify what those gross earnings are and make sure that they remit it to the federal government. Because the federal government has invested in the airport and it should be able to get benefits from that investment
How do you intend to change passengers’ perception of our facilities?
It cannot be done within the institutional frame work that we have, no matter how brilliant the new ideas are, we have to review what has happened to be sure that you are not reinventing the will. One of the
key things that I observed and evidence has shown is that our aviation industry is a very low contributor to our national GDP. Aviation industry in other countries contributes in the double digits to their GDP, but in
Nigeria it is 0.4 per cent to the GDP. We also decided to find out from our passengers how they feel about Nigerian airports. We contracted a polling company to question the passengers and the result we got from them is that most of our airports are under performing. They ranked most of our airports below average, I think only MMA2 (domestic terminal, Lagos airport) came out with a 3.2 score out of 5. And we believe that only two airports among those they surveyed scored up to 2.7 and 2.6 the rest were below 2.5. This is a customer perception index to find out what the customers think.
We also conducted a survey on what was the major problem for passengers. And we find out that it was waiting time at the airports; not the wait time to go through security but the bulk of the wait time is delays by airlines. So we figured there must be a way for us to improve turnaround times for our airlines. We also surveyed our airports and tried to see our connectivity from Nigeria to other countries. And we find out that compared to two major airports, Oliver Thambo in South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia, Nigeria is poorly
connected to the world. We do not have any direct flight between Nigeria, and the South-East Asia economies and China which are the major drivers for economic growth in the world today. The bulk of the passengers emanating from Nigeria on the Middle Eastern lines are heading to China. And we thought that, that was a minus for us so we identified poor connectivity as an issue.
But we saw that a lot of transformation has occurred in the remodeling of the airports, we have increased capacity, we have built up on open door opportunity for better passenger processing. We have remodeled
our airports from the antic nature to very modern beautiful airports. And we have spent considerable resources making our airports good. And again we also believe that after all these remodeling we must put in the context of the larger master plan of what our hopes and aspirations are as a nation.
Going forward, what do we hope to see in the Aviation sector, especially airports?
We have decided that firstly, we are going to do a master plan for Nigerian airports that would contain econometric studies of traffic patterns, land use in our airports and make sure that nobody will willfully violate the land use plans and the zoning in our airports. Secondly, we found out that no Nigerian airport occurs in the 10 airports in Africa as widely reported by the media. No Nigerian airport occurs in the top 20 and no Nigeria airline occurs in this. And part for the reason for this is that we even found out that no
Nigerian airport is certified by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards. So we have given ourselves a target that by mid-2015 we at least certify two airport by ICAO standards in Nigeria preferable Lagos and Abuja and then we will follow through with Kano and Enugu, the international hubs so that we meet ICAO standard.
After that certification we hope that Nigerian airports will at least come into the first 20 airports by the next ranking in Africa by Skytrax and other agencies that do that. So we have set definite time line and target.
What are your plans for BASA commercial agreements and royalties?
We have cancelled commercial agreements, but we have not put in place the new payments. It’s not as if the airlines would stop paying, we are changing the mode of payment. However, we have extended the commercial agreements till next year. They are still paying and they will keep paying till March 2015, pending when we replace it with a new one that gets Nigeria more income. Our aviation is one of our natural assets. So, we are trying to make sure that as airlines pick people from Nigeria, we get more revenues from that. It is in place till March after which it would be reviewed.
Any plan for a National Carrier?
Our goals are clear, we want a national carrier for Nigeria that would be private sector driven, we want government to play facilitating role and will be professionally run to repair our public image, goals. We can use that airline to express our desires for Nigeria with lower fares as many countries are using their airlines to do and improving connectivity across our key markets.