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Published On: Tue, Dec 30th, 2014

Upbeat as experts tip states own airports to shine in 2015

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Osita-ChidokaWith a relatively lull in activities in the outgoing 2014, the Nigeria aviation sector is set to witness a boom in business in the coming year from states-owned  airports, writes Suleiman Idris.

The Nigeria aviation did not in any way witness significant or memorable event (s) in 2014 upon the exit of Ms. Stella Oduah who was eased out earlier in the year following the controversial bullet proof cars scandal purportedly purchased for her conveniences by an agency under the ministry of aviation. Since Stella departed it remains to be seen if the current Minister Mr. Osita Chidoka will leave a footprint behind but analysts are upbeat that having grasp the politics of the industry within a short period of been in charge Osita appears to be one that can stir the ship of the sector in the right direction especially looking at the tough stance with which he has handle the affairs of the ministry since he took over from Sam Ortom, who replaced Oduah.

It is worth noting that the shadow of Stella Oduah still loom large in the industry because her arrival upturn hitherto entrenched status quo of sleaze in concessions, partnerships and sundry other business ventures in the sector, mostly between the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the owners of the airports and those who enters into any business relationship with the agency. The terminals all over the country were relics of years of neglect before she embarked on the audacious plan to renovate and rebuilt the 22 terminals under the control of the federal government through the airport remodelling project as part the Aviation Masterplan of the federal government.

Stakeholders, users and visitors have regain confidence since the start of the projects in 2012 in the industry and believe that Nigeria aviation is on the march again to retain its rightful place on the Africa continent. However since she left the stage, some of the projects have either been abandoned or moving at a snail pace putting to question the viability of the $500 million reportedly accessed from China to finance the projects.

An highlight of 2014 was the entrance of a number of new airlines into the domestic market to give passengers a choice of flight, but the perennial challenges of flight delays, cancellations and anxieties associated with travelling within the country still persist even as regulatory authorities continue to roll out measures to either eradicate such unpleasant experiences or ameliorate them as complaints of one form or the other from passengers against airlines both on the domestic and international routes increases.

Azman Air, Discovery Air and Air Peace were the three commercial airlines that were granted the Air Operator Certificates, AOC by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority NCAA; many believe that the entrance of the trio has brought some respite in area of air fare reduction in the sector.

The mantra of aviation is safety, the sector did witnessed improvement and increase in man power training and development as both the NCAA and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency NAMA, continually send personnel on recurrent courses on how to ensure a safe and accident free industry, at present, many are in different parts of the world undergoing training in communication, navigation, weather related and sundry other aspect of the industry.

However, optimism pervade the industry that the year 2015 will witness a milestone in the performance of certain airports in the country, those who speak to Peoples Daily are of the opinion that states who have taken a giant stride to build airports in their domain will witness a boom in the transport of cargo, agricultural produce and maintenance of aircraft.

The airports include the Ahmadu Bello International Airport in Birin Kebbi, Kebbi state constructed by the Governor Saidu Dakingari led administration, the terminal is second to none in the country in term of aeronautical and weather instrument and facilities installed at the airport. With a runway measuring more than 3 kilometer, it is attracting interesting from global players such as Emirates who are looking at using the airport as a hub to service neighbouring countries that surround Nigeria. At a recent briefing the Governor highlights economic benefits of the facility to include the airlifting of the abundance food and cash crops produce from the state and others within and around the north west zone to places in Asia, Europe and the Caribbean noting that it has attracted investment in the region of over N1 trillion by Africa leading conglomerate, the Dangote group.

He said “airlines like Emirates; Ethiopian Airlines can lease this kind of airport and make use of it for cargo and passenger operations. If you have regular flights no matter where you drop cargo or passengers they can connect to wherever they want to go to. And with airlines like Emirates, I am sure they can make this place busy and connect even West Africa from here like Niger, Cotonou, Ivory Coast and other countries like Morocco, Libya, and Algeria is shorter from Kebbi State than any other place around here.”

A regular user of the airport and Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Dasamal Television Network base in Abuja, Mr. Ishaka Aliyu commended the efforts of the governor and said it will open a vista of employment opportunities to indigenes of the state as aviation and agro allied related business begins to spring up courtesy of the presence of the airport. Currently Air Peace operates schedule flight operations into the airport 4 times a week.

Another airport projected to contribute significantly to the growth of the state is Dutse International Airport in Dutse, Jigawa state; the multi billion naira edifice cargo operators said will complement the Aminu Kano International Airport and decongest the airport when the need arise.

Also, one airport that experts are upbeat will play a major role in the development of the sector in Nigeria in years to come is the Akwa Ibom airport in Uyo. The presence of an MRO facility at the airport they said remain the catalyst that will unlock the hub potentials of the country’s aviation.

The construction of the National Hangar/Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul (MRO) facility will allow for maintenance checks and overhaul of commercial aircraft up to and including ‘D’ checks. The Hangar will accommodate two 747-400 aircraft, parked side-by-side, nose-in, fully contained within the building. The Hangar clearance, arrangement, and support shops allow flexibility for servicing a wide range of aircraft both in Africa and abroad according to the Governor Obong Goodswill Akpabio during a tour of the facility.

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