As the nation’s aviation industry continues on the part of growth, one of the major challenges in the industry has been infrastructure development. The existing infrastructure in the sector continue to deteriorate either due to age or due to lack of adequate maintenance. It was this problem that the Aviation Round Table (ART) made efforts to address the penultimate week, when it organized a one- day conference entitled; ‘Nigerian Aviation: Infrastructure Development and Challenges’.
The conference looked at critical issues affecting the nation’s aviation industry especially in the area of infrastructure. President of ART, Mr. Gbenga Olowo, said that despite the fact that aviation can unlock the economic and social potential of the country, the development in infrastructure in the sector is casting a blight to the potential.
Olowo said that it was unfortunate that only 28 percent of the budget proposal of the Federal Government for 2018 was allocated to capital expenditure. He said it was unfortunate that the country is “spending the money and not attending to the decay, emphasizing that air transport has the key to economic development of Africa.
For the International Air Transport Association (IATA), airport planning and infrastructure development encompassed safe, functional, capacity balanced and user-friendly airports.
“Working closely with airlines, airport authorities, regulators and design consultants, IATA seeks to ensure that airport development strategies result in affordable, flexible facilities that support airline operational and customer experience requirements now and in the future. IATA insists that airport Master plans should be based on common airline and airport business development strategies. Once the master plan is determined, the facility development programs can be organized in phases, allowing modular, incremental growth in accordance with traffic forecasts and the business strategies of the airline community, the airport and other key stakeholder groups.
IATA said the major elements of an initial development scheme are usually contained in a 10-year rolling capital expenditure (CAPEX) program. This exercise is essential in determining the affordability of the plan in terms of costs, benefits and the overall impact on airport charges.
Dr. Harold Demuren, former Director General of the Nigerian Civil ‘Aviation Authority (NCAA), in his speech discussed the role a functional national airline would play in the development of functional aviation infrastructure. He said that aviation in the country has grown immensely while canvassing for a commensurate growth in infrastructure in the country. He said Nigerian airlines, and airports should be the best in Africa instead of what is currently on ground.
He said that it was imperative for every state government to be committed to aviation by voting a certain sum of money for the development of the sector. He warned that though the country was seeking for private investments on the industry, stressing that “Nobody would invest unless there is good corporate governance.
The National Assembly, according to him, should wake up to their responsibilities to ensure there is an entrenchment of good corporate governance, adding that “We must invest in infrastructure. Aviation is the engine for economic growth. This is a good a good industry to invest in”.
Demuren observed that with the huge population and the strategic position of Nigeria in the global aviation map, the nation’s airports should be a hub for Africa, but wondered why the indigenous airlines were failing while the foreign airlines operating into the country were flourishing.
According to him, Nigeria was lacking in aerospace and ground based infrastructure, noting that no company in Nigeria manufactures any component of aircraft, build aircraft engine, adequate training facilities and aircraft maintenance hangar.
Demuren lamented that the Cape Town Convention, which creates room for easier acquisition of new aircraft by airlines had failed in Nigeria despite its importance to the airline sub-sector on the continent.
He observed that airlines are key in infrastructure development, but maintained that for the country’s airlines to be profitable, they must be strong and form a united entity.
He added: “All the money we make in the industry, we return it to the Western countries. So, there is no reason for comparison with the West. We need to address the various gaps in the system. Good corporate governance and transparency are key to anything that we do in the sector.
“Aviation is a perishable product, if the seat mile is gone, you can’t sell it tomorrow. So, we must have strong management in the sector to move forward. We must also invest in our airlines by acquiring new aircraft, which costs are massive.
He insisted that the country’s airlines require bailout funds for them to remain afloat in business and declared that the American government bailed out its airlines immediately after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, while Air France had such gestures in the past from the French Government.
Also, Mr. Nick Fadugba, former Secretary General of African Airlines Association (AFRAA) who also doubled as the Chairman of the occasion, said that air transport could unlock the economic potential in Africa if it was run with good corporate governance.
For Nigeria’s airlines to be profitable, he canvassed for the nation’s carriers to form a joint venture, stressing that the era of doing it alone was gone.
Fadugba called for transparency on the policies of the government, stressing that Nigeria had knowledgeable technical personnel, manpower and market to control the sector on the continent.
“I commend the Federal Government for agreeing to pay the workers of the former national carrier, Nigeria Airways; however, they should be paid before the end of the year.
Capt. Fola Akinkuotu, Managing Director, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) in his presentation declared that the Nigerian airspace infrastructure had experienced significant development over the years in response to global trend, but noted that other countries too were moving forward.
He explained that most of the Instrument Landing Systems in the country were Category two equipment, which is in conformity with the global standards.
He informed that Enugu Airport, for instance, has ILS, which is category two, but lacked approach landing system, which made it difficult for aircraft to land in poor visibility.
He, however, decried the lack of power supply across the airports and stations for the agency to power its equipment, but noted that in order to address the challenges; NAMA had commenced installation of solar power equipment across the country.
He also said Nigeria should upgrade its ILS equipment to Category 3 with the requisite training to ensure airlines could fly and even land at zero visibility the way it is done in other advance economies.
Mr, Nick Fadugba, former Secretary General,AFRAA also raised the issue of funding. How can we get funding for Aviation infrastructure in Nigeria?
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