Stakeholders differ over proposed privatisation of airports

Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria

Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria

Federal Government’s plan to privatise some airports in the country has been greeted with mixed feelings among concerned stakeholders.While some industry watchers commended the bold step after years of toying with the idea, others said that the plan was ill-timed, particularly with the privatisation plan focusing on four airports that are the most viable among a total of 26 across the country.

Critics though reckon that the proposal is a global practice, they are worried that such at this time would lead to several job losses given past antecedent with the old Nigerian Airways.

An aviation stakeholder and publisher of Aviation Safety and Security magazine, Abdulhakeem Umar, has advised the government to drop the idea of privatisation.

According to him, “It is totally wrong to concession airports because only four viable ones in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kano have been selected. What happens to the 17 other non-viable ones that depend largely on these four airports. Anybody taking the four airports should go with the liabilities of the 17 non-viable ones.”

Umar advised government to improve on Yola, Jos, Akure and Makurdi airports by designating them as agro-airports to boost the evacuation of farm produce.

He added that the privatisation plan was “aimed at killing the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and sending workers into unemployment market as it was in the case of the liquidated Nigeria Airways.”

Umar called on Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, as an aviator, to take far-reaching decisions aimed at developing the aviation sector in the country.

Former Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Capt. Roland Iyayi and a former Director-General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Demuren, however, lauded the idea.

Iyayi blamed the aviation regulatory authorities for the non-viability of most of the airports, except three.Iyayi, who is also the current Managing Director of Topbrass Aviation, said: “Today, we have 26 airports in the country owned by the Federal Government and of all, only three – Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt – accounting for 80.2 per cent of the total public travelling by air. And somebody in the regulatory authority cannot ask the question why this aberration.

“Is it normal that you will have airports built and well equipped, yet there is no service? Their usual answer is that Lagos is the commercial capital, Port Harcourt the oil and gas capital and Abuja is seat of government, but they are all wrong. That is hogwash.

“Are you saying that someone in Kebbi with an airport will not want to fly to Abuja rather than drive 10 hours? Or someone in Jalingo does not want to come into Abuja by air? Are you saying that people in Benue do not want to avoid all the road traffic problems and fly into Abuja? These are the issues.”He added that the current crises in the aviation sector is “a price we are paying for not doing the right things years back.”

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