There are several airports built by state governments that are fast turning to ‘closed’ airports described in the airline business as ghost airports. During the last 15 years, more airports are opening in Nigeria. Some whose revenues are barely enough to sustain them are opening up airports that have become dormant. They seem not to know that running an airport is a huge expense even for the largest of countries.
Low passenger traffic
Unless there is sufficient passenger traffic for local, regional and international traffic no one can afford to run such loss making projects. In Nigeria, there are 23 airports. The latest is the one built by the Adamawa state government; a multi-billion naira ‘investment’. The Federal Government has put in over N200 billion to bail out the country’s airlines in the past five years but that has not solved the insolvency of these airlines which lifespan is less than ten years. If such a loss can be made year on year by the airlines, just how much can you expect to lose from an ‘international’ airport? Most airports in the country are designated ‘international’ even when there is nothing international about them. Losses we can look forward to a year on year loss of at least $200 million a year or likely many times that amount. We struggle with a debt burden that the government has lumbered us with, approaching one and a half billion dollars and we will be paying that back for the next 50 years. Add that to the operational losses and ask yourself; what chance do we stand of getting ourselves out of the woods? Just recently, Nigerians were told that there were many countries that would pay for the airport construction of three ‘brand new’ terminals in Lagos, Abuja and Port-Harcourt. Experts told New Telegraph that for whatever reason, the people, our children and their children will be paying for this project long after we are all dead and buried.
Appeal to airlines
Nigeria has been trying to push its airlines to fly to remote areas by simply appealing to them to fly to such locations. The airlines have baulked at this on the grounds that they lose money on such flights. Save for Arik and Overland which tried to service many destinations, other carriers have only concentrated their operation on just few of the airports, citing low passenger traffic. Experts’ advice Speaking in the same vein, a former spokesman for airline operators, Mohammed Tukur said, “If you travel regularly by air across Nigeria’s major cities, especially through the local and international wings of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMA), Lagos, and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, you are likely to assume that volume of air travellers you see at these airports is a perfect representation of traffic at all the other airports around the country.” He stated that currently, there are 22 airports under the management of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), stressing that out of these 22, four are viable, nine are semi-active and the rest (also nine in number) are dormant in terms of revenue and traffic generation.
The four viable airports are the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMA) Lagos; Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja; Port-Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa and Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA), Kano. Those termed semi-active include those in Benin, Calabar, Enugu, Jos, Owerri, Ilorin, Asaba, Maiduguri and Osubi while the dormant airports include those in Minna, Makurdi, Akure, Ibadan, Bauchi, Sokoto, Katsina, Kaduna and Yola. In fact, it is no longer news that some of these airports are no longer viable as little or no flights are connected to them. Tukur stated that airlines prefer to go to airports in cities like Lagos, Abuja, Port-Harcourt or Owerri where they can get traffic, adding that some of these airports either have one scheduled operation in a day or no flight at all.
“For instance, only Arik Air operates daily flights into Yola and Makurdi currently. It is instructive to note that before the advent of Nigeria’s current democracy; there were no commercial activities in some of these airports.” A recent report compiled by Accenture lamented that despite the fact that three of them (Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt) generate much money, only a little development can be witnessed there.
The three aerodromes generate more than 70 percent of domestic and international traffic. All three airports are currently handling more passenger traffic than they were originally designed for. Analysts are of the opinion that nothing can be done by government to improve the lot of airports except to leave them in the hands of private operators or reduce landing cost into them. According to an expert in airport security, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), those airports should be handed over to state governments or private investors for results. He noted that for instance, FAAN’s level of personnel at dormant airports like Akure, Ibadan, Ilorin, Minna, Kaduna etc generally can’t be more than 50 for mainly security officers and commercial whose average salary can’t be more than N50, 000. He added that Airspace Management Agency too will have same level of personnel; mainly Air traffic controllers and others probably less or not more than 10 and whose average salary can’t be more than N50, 000 too.
The Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos
The Murtala Muhammed Airport which was built in 1976 was one of the iconic structures in the country then. It was modeled after Schipol Airport, Amsterdam. While the later has undergone structural changes to meet the yearnings of millions of passengers that make use of the facilities, the former is an eye sore. Despite the billions of naira pumped into remodeling, not much has been done to boost the image of the over 35 year’s facilities. Passenger’s facilitation is one hell of a process inside the area. Security is equally suspect in the area as the area terminal serves more of just going through airport process than the comfort travellers crave for. The Duty Free shops are houses some of the the world’s smallest duty-free shop. It is Nigeria’s busiest airport with largest passenger traffic and one which revenue is used to service several others dormant aerodromes. Today, the airport looks very unfriendly with inbound and outbound passengers trekking a distance with their luggage on their heads.
Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA)
The remodeling of the airport ought to open it to floodgate of patronage and not the other way round. The low level passengers’ traffic into the airport can be traced easily to the security situation in Kano, fuelled by the activities of the fundamentalist Islamic group, Boko Haram.