How Govt Inference is Killing Nigeria’s Airports

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Chinedu Eze

Officials of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) have identified government interference as the major cause of infrastructure decay and poor management of Nigeria’s airports.

They alleged that those in positions of authority enrich themselves from the agency and force their acolytes and relations to be employed by the agency even when they are not qualified. They also accused the agency of awarding concessions and contracts to their relatives and cronies.

THISDAY investigations also revealed that corruption among top officials of FAAN encouraged by the perfidy of politicians, who demand money from the agency and other agencies of the aviation industry, might have whittled funds available for proper development of the airports.

It is to stop such interferences and alleged diversion of revenues from FAAN to private accounts that prompted government’s decision to concession the airports.

But a FAAN official who spoke to THISDAY said that every inch of the viable airport space has been given out largely to individuals recommended by top elected and appointed officials of government, noting that concession of the airport would trigger “loads” of litigation “because it would be difficult to dislodge those that now operate at the airport under different concession agreements.

The FAAN source lamented that the agency’s management operates by taking orders from officials of government, those in the National Assembly and the Ministry of Transportation.

According to the FAAN official, the average revenue generated from the airports annually is about N70 billion and these revenues come largely from Passenger Service Charge (PSC), rents, landing and parking, fuel surcharge and others.

“Lagos makes about N3 billion monthly; Abuja, about N1 billion, Port Harcourt, about N800 million and Kano about N800 million. If we are allowed to manage this money we would use it to effectively develop and manage the airports, but we do not have much say in the running of these airports. Most of the money so generated is taken by politicians, from the National Assembly to the executive. We are usually left with what we can use to pay salaries and overheads.

“This may sound funny but it is true. I can tell you that most of the concessionaires who are providing services at the airports were recommended to FAAN by these politicians. Most of these concessionaires owe us but whenever we request for these debts to be paid otherwise we sanction them, we would get a phone call from top government officials, asking us to give the person more time. It has been like this over the years,” the source said.

The source also told THISDAY that FAAN collects the bulk of its revenues from foreign airlines, which pays passenger services charge of $50 from each passenger and lamented that most domestic airlines do not pay for the services rendered to them by FAAN.

“What they will not tell you is that the whole of the airports have been given out. None is under the control of FAAN. Many of the instructions we receive come from the Ministry. Contrary to what people think, FAAN is not generating so much money; yet, what we get is taken away. Look at the area of cargo. What we are getting now is four million metric tonnes a month. When you multiply that number with N7 per ton you will get about N1.5 billion per annum. This gives us about N90 million monthly. But when the economy was robust we used to generate about N5 billion,” one of FAAN’s officials added.

The source started that the planned concession would not only attract litigation but might bring chaos due to uncoordinated administrative style in the management of FAAN where most of the activities and decisions are hijacked by politicians, but it may be to put an end to these interferences that prompted the present administration to concession the major airports.