An aviation sector expert has said that as much as N32billion would be required for upgrade of major Nigerian airports to operate 24 hours.
The expert who is close to the Ministry of Transportation however stated that the government does not have the resources to embark on a comprehensive modernisation of these airports. He explained that the cost is high because many of the airport facilities have become obsolete.
THISDAY on Wednesday spoke to officials of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) who confirmed that the airports had been neglected for long and would take a longer time to fix.
A source in the operations department of FAAN said of about 30 airports in the country, only about six operate night flights, which means that a flight in distress can have no airport to land in the nearest distance, a situation, which could result in a major tragedy.
â€œIt is very expensive to provide the equipment that will enable the airports to receive flights in the night. FAAN is losing huge revenue because most of these airports do not operate 24 hours. For us to do night operations we need to put so many things in place. Lighting must e adequate. Night landing depends on the intensity of light. In this modern Nigeria, there is no reason why we should have airports without adequate lighting or airports that cannot operate for 24 hours. This is because any aircraft can be in distress and it wonâ€™t have any airport to land,â€ the source said.
He noted that technology has left Nigerian airports behind because â€œmost of the equipment at the airports have become archaic,â€ and it is capital intensive to replace most of these obsolete equipment because companies that manufactured them then no more have them or can they manufacture them now because they have become obsolete.â€
He remarked: â€œWhen you go back to the manufacturers they will tell you the equipment is no more in production. Some of the equipment was produced by more than one company; it will be very difficult to get them to manufacture the equipment again so you are forced to migrate to the new system, which means you will have to do away with everything that you have. Producing old equipment is very expensive.â€
THISDAY however gathered from the Ministry of Transportation official that government was not contemplating earmarking funds for the modernisation of airport facilities; rather, government is going ahead with the concession programme to bring in the private sector to develop airport infrastructure.
At the 10th anniversary of MMA2 the Chairman of Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL), Dr. Wale Babalakin said that government has other issues to contend with than funding airport infrastructure; therefore, the private sector should be encouraged to invest in infrastructure.
â€œLet us be frank, government cannot develop airport infrastructure. The number of challenges we have makes infrastructure development something we should give to private sector. We are still at the stage where there are no proper health care. We are still at the stage where power is a challenge, where education is an issue, where so many things require the governmentâ€™s input. What we need to do is to give it to private sector but the private sector operates when there is rule of law and where there is pursuit of justice,â€ Babalakin said.
The Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika had earlier confirmed that government might not be disposed to funding modernisation of airport projects.
The minister has started making strong plans to concession the airports, insisting that it is the only solution to the obsolete airport facilities.
â€œI think the ultimate solution to all of these is to concession these airports. I have maintained this because I donâ€™t know any other way we can go about it. That is the only way to go because government does not have the resources to continue to invest in these airports. I think that the ultimate end and solution to all of these is the concession of these airports. I have maintained this. It is the only solution, I donâ€™t know any other way we can do it because government no longer have the resources to continue to invest in these airports,â€ Sirika said.