Some aviation industry experts have backed federal government’s plan to concession airport facilities to private sector for effective management and further development.
Labour unions in the aviation industry had opposed the planned concession, alleging that government has not provided the right framework for the programme.
Government hinged its decision to concession the airports to the fact that it can no longer fund the development of airport infrastructure due to its lean resources and the present economic downturn.
But commenting, Managing Director of Medview Airline, Alhaji Muneer Bankole said the concession of the airport was very necessary in order to have rapid development in infrastructure development and eliminate hindrances encountered by airlines as they grapple with obsolete facilities at the airports.
The labour unions also pointed out ‘that the workers of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) are not being carried along in the planned airport concession.
The unions also said that concession may not be a guaranty to the development of airport infrastructure and argue that if FAAN were left alone without interferences it would build and manage befitting airports for the county.
Industry analyst and the author of the “Nigerian Aviation Fact Book, Mike Chikeka said it has become impossible for government to continue to fund airport development, noting that airport facilities would become obsolete and possibly jeopardise safety if the prrivate sector is not allowed to rescue the sector.
“I am troubled with the state of our airports. Our airports, which are the first point of call to foreigners into Nigeria have become a national embarrassment. Nigerians are not immune to this national show of shame as they are received on arrival with a certain ambiance that leaves nothing to be desired. This has been the situation in the last three decades of our national existence,” Chikeka said.
He said that a study conducted by “The Guide to Sleeping in Airports” named three of Nigeria’s international airports as the worst in Africa. The airports are Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos (10th worst) Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, (7th worst) Port Harcourt International Airport, Port Harcourt (6th worst).
“We have also established a fact that government has continued to struggle with ensuring the operational viability of these airports rather than both operational and profitability of same. In the end, it is almost unattainable for government to run a profitable airport. Sadly, too, government funding continues to shrink year after year and we cannot wait for a complete collapse of our system before something is done,” he said.
Chikeka said the infrastructures in most airports in the country have become not just unserviceable but completely obsolete compared to what is obtainable in most countries of the world
“It is not uncommon to see airline staff bashed and abused verbally and sometimes physically because passengers bags are shortlanded. A quick trace to the reasons sometimes is that conveyor belts did not drop some bags and in other to avoid delays they will have to depart the flight without the complete number of bags.
“It is a common sight to see people dripping of sweat at departure and arrival points due to unserviceable air conditioning system. And this has been the situation in the last 20 years,” he also said.
Chikeka remarked that when any government business or parastatal attains a certain level of constant inefficiency and losses and the level of wastefulness has gone beyond acceptable standards, safety and efficiency being the bedrock of the aviation business is compromised and return on investment is negative “because no right-thinking Minister or President will continue to expose that business or country to such an adverse situation. Concessions essentially ensure that government becomes the regulator of standards and not the provider of services and regulator of standards at the same time. It is obvious that if public servants refuse to justify and provide the required service to attain the level of development, safety and efficiency needed to move this sector forward would be compromised.”