Africa: Nigeria debates how to manage its airports

The Nigerian government is seeking to place its existing airports under private care in a concession proposal that has generated mixed reactions.

Whilst some experts have called for the adoption of the Ghana Airports Company Limited model, for a state-owned commercial entity to be set up to run the country’s airports, others believe private sector involvement is the way to improving the 26 airports.

The 26 airports, five of which are functional international airports, are currently operated by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), which doubles as the industry regulator.

But most of the airports are in a deplorable state and need a facelift, whilst there are also concerns over their operational efficiency.

Ikechi Uko, a travel consultant and organizer of the annual Akwaaba Travel Market, told the B&FT on the sidelines of the 12th edition of the Akwaaba Travel Market held in Lagos that: “The Government of Nigeria thinks that it’s better to concession airports because the government does not have money to run it. But there is a counter argument that Ghana didn’t concession; they created a commercial company that can take a loan and upgrade. So it is a model which is working in Ghana.

There is another model where a private concessionaire built the best airport in Nigeria but it was said that the concessioning process was faulty. There is a third argument that all the airports you have, the five new airports they are building, are already concessioned to the Chinese because it is on a Build-Operate-Transfer basis. So what exactly are you concessioning?”

Under Ghana’s model, Ghana Airports Company Limited (GACL) was established after the decoupling of the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) in accordance with the Civil Aviation Act, 2004.

GACL was given the responsibility to plan, develop, manage, and maintain all airports and aerodromes in Ghana, whilst the regulatory function remained with GCAA.

Chike Ogeah, the man credited with turning around the fortunes of SAHCOL, was emphatic that private capital, by way of a concession arrangement, is the way to go.

“The truth is that, we have seen how the airports have turned out over the years under government control. Now Nigeria is officially under recession. If in the time of plenty, what we have is what we see, you can imagine what will happen now when there is not much money to go around to do the basic and very important things we want to do.”

He, however, called for a transparent process that will ensure that the best company is selected to manage Nigeria’s airports.

“Nigerians’ only fear is how the concession is going to be done. Is it just to call people who don’t have an idea about it and politicians just giving it to their brothers and sisters?’

Once it is clear that we are going to give it to people who have the competence to do this thing, and we take care of the existing members of staff who have been trained all these years and have the necessary skills and training to be able to adopt, it is that capital we are interested in. Bring it and unleash it and let us turn our airports around,” Mr. Ogeah said.

The 12th edition of Akwaaba African Market was held at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Lagos, Nigeria.

The event, which was attended by aviation and tourism professionals from over 16 African countries, was opened by the Deputy Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry of Zimbabwe, Annastacia Ndlouv.

Other dignitaries that were present at the opening ceremony of the event included NANTA President, Bernard Bankole, Mr. Talal Alsuwaidi, Manager, Dubai Tourism, Mr Ikechi Uko, organiser Akwaaba African Travel Market; Mr. Omror Alal, Dubai Immigration, and Rwanda’s High Commissioner to Nigeria, Amb. Stanislas Kamanzi.


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