Many Nigerian airports under the management of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) are underutilised.
This, industry stakeholders have attributed to lack of vision by FAAN and the federal government that concentrate more in providing aeronautical services and underutilising the opportunities the airports could offer, especially in the areas of non-aeronautical services.
But FAAN officials stated that it is not that the management of the agency is incapable of devising ways to fully utilise the airports, but government through the minister and Presidency railroads the agency. According to them, the agency does not take its own decisions, but tailor itself to the whims of the Ministry and the Presidency.
There are different ramifications of government interference in the affairs of FAAN and other aviation agencies that tend to stifle ingenuous ways the authority can device to develop the airports and also boost revenue generation.
Take for example, the revenue generated from advertisement by the Bi-Courtney Aviation Services (BASL), that manages the Murtala Muhammed Airport Domestic Terminal, known as MMA2 is projected by insiders to be about N1 billion annually.
MMA2 has equivalent space with the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) being operated as domestic terminal by FAAN. But while MMA2 alone rakes in about N1 billion in advertisement, the whole 22 airports under FAAN management does not generate up to N500 million from advert per annum.
THISDAY investigations revealed that some years ago, the Presidency had instructed FAAN to reach agreement with two outdoor advertisement agencies to take charge of all the advert placements at the all the airports managed by the agency at a ridiculous amount that is less than N600 million.
After some years FAAN went to court to terminate that contract and recently it was the case to extricate itself from the agreement.
Today, FAAN is building boards at various airports for advert placement and it is contemplating managing advertising airport by airport, which is projected to add about N25 billion to its revenue.
Also, some years ago, the Ministry of Aviation had reached an agreement with a company which was supposed to build what it called hospitality facility at the front of the international terminal of the Lagos airport.
The company was also given the power to collect car park charges and for some years the company collected the revenues without accounting them to FAAN until the agency was able to end the agreement when a new Minister came and aborted it. The hospitality facility was abandoned for years until recently when FAAN took over the space to build passenger pick-up and parking facility.
A FAAN official told THISDAY that if the agency’s management is allowed to operate on its own without interference from top government officials, it would have been doing better than it is doing currently. Today, no Nigerian airport is rated in the first 10 in Africa and no Nigerian airport is recognised in the world. MMA2 was recognised for about seven years as the best airport terminal in West Africa and currently one of the best in the sub-region. MMA2 was built by private investor.
FAAN is also overburdened with unskilled workforce, which over bloats its overhead but with little output. Before the Buhari administration, FAAN had about 5,000 workers but almost five years after, the agency has over 9000 workers. THISDAY learnt that many of the workers are unskilled and without the requisite academic certificate, which also explains the mediocre performance of the agency in many areas.
In fact, FAAN insider told THISDAY that one of the reasons why some of the airports are porous in terms of security is because incompetent people are given sensitive responsibilities to manage the security apparatus of the airports.
Many FAAN officials believe that if the agency could be allowed to operate on its own, take its decision, design its developmental goals, after three years there would be total revamp of all the airports in the country.
“When you say there are no airfield lighting at some airports, it is not as if we cannot provide it. if we are allowed to use the money we generate to develop the airports, there won’t be any airport that won’t have airfield lighting. We know what to do and we know how we can boost the revenue of FAAN, but we should be allowed to take decisions and be responsible for these decisions. We are not always happy when we are criticised for the infractions that are caused by others. And we don’t have the power to run to the media and complain,” FAAN source told THISDAY.
In the area of revenue generation, the official said that some of the actions taken by government tend to infringe on FAAN’s potential to make money.
“They should allow us to be independent. We can successfully modernise the airports ourselves, but government officials want to control everything.
“If we are independent, we will do better and make more money than the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) because we don’t have competitors and airports are prime places where people like to come in addition to travellers. we fix our own prices. so they should just allow management to do its work,” the FAAN official added.