Airports concessioning will enhance efficiency in aviation sector- Says Tukur
.Lauds FG on safety, Category-One certification
By Udeme Clement
Alhaji Mohammed Tukur is the former Assistant Secretary General, Airline Operators of Nigeria, AON. He is also a stakeholder in Nigerian Aviation sector and expert with wealth of experience in Aviation business. He spoke in this Interview with Financial Business on the urgent need for the Federal Government to concession the Airports across Nigeria, in order to enhance operationally efficiency like what obtains in advanced countries.
Looking at the Aviation sector after 58 years of independence, what measures do you think government should put in place to enhance efficiency in the system?
I would advise government to concession the Airports across the country. The moment government takes the initiative to concession the nation’s Airports, leaving these facilities under the management of private companies there would be rapid improvement in the operations.
Concessioning the Airports sounds like a laudable idea, but do you consider the fact that such policy may pave the way for concessionaires to increase the cost of services in the sector, like what obtains at Apapa ports in Lagos now?
Aviation is quite different from the port industry. Also, there is what we called Build Operate and Transfer, BOT, agreement. So, government should take this BOT concept into consideration in concessioning the Airports. If properly carried out, concessioning would bring tremendous economic benefits to the sector and the economy at large. For instance, the Airports under private operators would have world class facilities, good maintenance culture, more revenue accruing to government in terms of income flow in the economy and improved operational efficiency.
Also, the Airports in Nigeria already have exiting structures, so if they are given to concessionaires, the private companies would improve on the infrastructure at the terminals to ensure we have beautiful Airports across the country.
For example, Lagos Airport alone generates about 60 percent of the total revenue. So government could take Lagos Airport to one company to complement Akure, Kwara and other Airports around that area. Port Harcourt Airport could be given to another private operator to complement Warri, Calabar , Akwa Ibom and other Airports at that axis. Abuja Airport could be given to private operator to complement Mina and other areas, Kaduna could also be given to another concessionaire to complement Yola, Maiduguri, Kano could be managed by yet another operator to cover Sokoto, Kebbi, among others. Once this is done, there would be efficiency in the system.
How would you describe the current state of Aviation sector in Nigeria?
On the current state of Aviation sector, I would say confidently that the sector has done relatively well in the last few years. For instance, for over four years, we have not recorded any major accident in the sector. So, looking at the area of safety, the sector has done remarkably. Though, there are minor cases but we have not had any major crash in the past few years.
Also, Nigeria still has international recognition in Aviation business because Nigeria passed the last audit and retains the ‘Category-One certification, which is also a major achievement as far as Aviation business is concerned.
Though, there are still some people in the industry, who want to destroy the system, it is left for the agency to fish them out for the sector to achieve greater growth.
As expert in the Aviation sector, what do you think could be done to help local airline operators facing challenges in the country?
The reality is that government has done a lot for local airline operators in Nigeria. For instance, government granted these operators a huge amount of money as bailout funds to enable them expand their operations and stay afloat in business. Sadly, that bailout money was misused and could not be accounted for.
Notwithstanding, would you still advise government to give them another bailout or any form of support?
Giving another bailout would not be that easy because the bailout, which government granted local airline operators before was mismanaged and not accounted for. Aside from the bailout, government also granted waivers to local Airline operators to bring in spare parts without import duty payment.
Honestly speaking, government has done quite a lot for local Airline operators. At present, the waivers arrangement for bringing it spare parts for aircraft is still in place.
At present, do we have sufficient aircrafts operating in the country?
We have many airplanes flying at the moment. For instance, Air Peace has fleet of aircrafts in Nigeria. Aside from Air Peace, we have Arik and Dana, among others.
The most important thing is to ensure adequate maintenance of the existing aircrafts. Also, there is nothing wrong in leasing aircraft internally.
How do you mean?
Leasing aircraft internally means that Airline operators with a large fleet of aircrafts could lease some airplanes to the operators whose aircrafts are not flying to still do business.
How would you assess the current Aviation Minister?
When people have done well, we should learn to commend them for others to toe the line of hard work and accountability. The current Minister is doing well in repositioning the sector for greater efficiency. For instance, if you go to the Technical College in Zaria, you would realise that there are a lot of changes and improvement there. The Accident Investigation Bureau is also doing well. Navigation has improved and gradually we would land at zero minimum. The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, NAMA, is working hard to ensure effective communication at the control tower.
However, we could still do better to operate in line with the global trend.