Chinedu Eze

The Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Muhtar Usman has said the problem of obsolete and inadequate infrastructure in the aviation industry would be a thing of the past if the airports are concessioned.

Muhtar who spoke to THISDAY in an exclusive interview in Lagos, said cost intensive projects such as airport facilities, rail and road construction are given out in concession under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) because government does not have the resources to fund such projects alone.

He said for Nigeria to be a hub, it must have modern airports with modern facilities. It must also have transit lounge and other necessary facilities that would enable passengers stay to connect flights to other destinations, he said.

“First of all, we have to look at our airports, for example Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos is built about 40 years ago, which was built for specific maximum number of passengers which it has exceeded by now. So, for you to have a hub you need to have seamless connectivity and Nigeria is a natural hub geographically. And we have what it takes to put in place to make a very efficient hub. We need to get the airport improved for facilitation and security and of course, safety.

“The modern trend nowadays is that government goes into partnership in the form of concession with the private sector to invest in the facilities and bring the airport to the international standards which will enable seamless connectivity. The current administration has started the process of concession and has established transaction adviser that will recommend modalities and process for the concession programme,” the Director-General of NCAA said.
He said other facilities such as availability of fuel, maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) facility must be put in place for an airport to become a hub.

Muhtar, noted that a hub cannot be successful without a national airline, which would provide the platform for the full utilisation of the facilities, aviation training and aircraft maintenance.

“This is where the national airline or the flag carrier comes into play, to take advantage of the bilateral air service agreements (BASA) that we have. It would provide the full utlilisation of the efficient and modern airport facilities and other supporting facilities for efficient coordination such as the MRO.

“The advantage of modern airport facilities and national airline is that they will create jobs because when you expand the airport certainly you will need people to work.

“When you establish maintenance, repair and overhaul centre, you will also need people to work and they will all be Nigerians. The carrier is certainly going to employ a lot of people; there will be aviation fuel fuelling facility to feed higher number of aircraft that would be coming to the airport.

“This will also cause employment to go up, and there will be positive chain reaction. So, there are lots of things that we stand to benefit as Nigerians if we are able to concession those airports, put the MRO in place and make aviation fuel available at affordable rate,” he said.

Muhtar expressed disappointment at those who are opposed to airport concession, noting that it is the key for a turnaround in air transport development in the country, adding that such people are looking at the small picture.
“I believe people are looking at the smaller picture. As I said, if you look at the forecast the potential is there for the growth and like I said, in terms of the concession of the airport you need to have efficient airport for people to be able to use your hub. It is not about Nigeria being a destination, in addition, it can also serve a hub to other destinations, going to Europe, down to South Africa, down to Eastern part, to the Middle East and far east, and of course, to South America. We are naturally placed where we can take advantage and use it,” he said.