On October 11th the Federal Government approved 3,500 hectares of land in the Lekki-Epe axis of Lagos state for the construction of the Lekki International Airport. This was spearheaded through the Ministry of Aviation, Hadi Siriki at the Lagos Economic Summit 2022 and the initiative was welcomed by the Lagos State Governor; Babajinde Sanwo-Olu.
While the vision to add more airports to the nation is a progressive idea ,we fear this may be another elephant project that may take eternity to wrap up. This may also be referred to as the cliché of putting the cart before the horse.
Nigeria has a total of 32 airports but 26 of them are managed by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and only 5 of the airports engage in international operations; when the figures ought to be 13 airports. The five international functional airports are: Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu; Aminu Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport; Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja; Port Harcourt International Airport and the most popular- Murtala Muhammed International Airport
With the ongoing saga in the aviation sector such as domestic flights shutting down as cost of diesel is on the rooftops, foreign flights fleeing the country due to failure to rebate their investments, no national carrier, hyper inflation in ticket price, dilapidated airports, underutilized domestic airports, ban of flights from Nigeria to some nations; solution to solve these worries are more expedient than creating another airport where these problems could be inherited.
The master of airports in Nigeria; Lagos Murtala Muhammed International Airport is a ridicule to what is obtained in developed countries and even African nations as Egypt, Kenya, Angola etc.
The Lekki-Airport seems to be an impulsive decision because no plan and budget was presented to the citizens to take a cue in what the government was to achieve. What is the cost for the airport and in what duration would it be completed? What is the current ministry of aviation trying to achieve within its short remaining term before it takes a bow next year after the 2023 elections?
Few weeks back, the Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Saji Sambo pledged that he would provide Nigeria with a National Transport Policy before the end of his tenure. The aviation industry which is a mode of transportation captured in the NTP draft of 1993, has no headway on the terms and conditions on the proliferation of airports in Nigeria. NTP is expected to guide the development plans for ports, airports and other modes of transportation, including traditional and new ones. Its absence of the years presupposes that the nation’s transportation problems are rooted in the lack of NTP.
What are the potentials that influenced him to cite Lekki as the next airport bearer?
The new airport is expected to leverage on the potential traffic from the Lekki Deep Seaport, Dangote refinery and the larger concept of the Lagos Free Trade Zone to maximize profit and impact. However, it is was not clear if the airport will be developed under Public Private Partnership(PPP) or solely financed by the state or federal government.
Would there be connections from the work-in-progress rail and inland waterways to the airport? Or, would the Lekki roads which are over laboured be the only source to have access to the airport?
Already, the Lekki corridor is suffering from lack of rail and access interconnectivity.
Would the Lekki-Airport be established to be in tune with the existing era of renewable energy, innovative technologies that the world is in? Recall that the almost ready Lekki- Deep seaport is in the same location and its being faulted for not considering access passage to the seaport.
Bearing this in mind, is the government on a mission to add more soreness to the injury by gazetting the same location for an airport?
With all the drums and trumpets about the Lekki-Deep Seaport being in full operation as of September 2022, it is still in the oven; operations are yet to commence.
There is also an error of judgment being committed by this new airport order because in the medium to long term, the new airport may suffer shortage of traffic as many other deep seaports in the neigbouring state of Ondo and eastern parts of the country spring up.
According to statistics by the National Inland Waterways Authority(NIWA), 75 per cent of inbound cargo to Apapa and Tin Can Ports are destined for Onitsha and Aba markets in the South-East.
The Aviation Minister and his successors should focus on giving the country a Nigeria carrier; it itches the ears that a giant nation like Nigeria lacks a National carrier. Nigeria needs innovative airports in tandem with trends. Most domestic airports are partially utilized, the ministry should provide the infrastructural needs to have a full and lucrative operation. The airports across the country still rely on generators for power.