The Federal Government will demolish substantial part of the 40-year-old Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) terminal and replace it with the new one built by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) in December. This is coming as aviation labour leaders have rejected the planned concession of four major airports in the country.
While passenger facilitation is conducted in the new structure, government plans to quickly rebuild the old terminal and dovetail it with the new one in a seamless design to double its capacity so that the facility would be able to process the projected 10 million passengers per annum by 2030.
The MMIA was commissioned in 1979 when it started operation with passenger capacity of 250,000 per annum but in 2017 the airport processed about 6,273,545 passengers, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. It was gathered that the federal government plans to urgently rebuild the old structure and install modern facilities to expand the airport’s capacity for the projected annual passenger growth of 7.4 per cent.
The President of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Mr. Ben Ibe, confirmed the planned demolition to THISDAY after the labour unions held a crucial meeting with the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), led by its Managing Director, Captain Hamisu Yadudu, at the weekend.
The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, had hinted that work would start at the Lagos airport after the new terminal at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport had started operation. The minister said by the end of 2020, the Lagos airport would be a completely new facility.
The labour leader told reporters that the power outage and other hiccups being experienced presently at the airport would be temporary, as government plans to totally revamp the old structure and replenish outmoded facilities and equipment. Ibe also said aviation labour had rejected the planned concession of four major airports in the country.
He said that businesses at the airports have already been concessioned, noting that if government insists on concessioning the airports, it would not be able to pay for litigation and damages even from the money it would receive from the concessionaires. He added that currently FAAN is still issuing certificates to concessionaires doing businesses at the airports.
The union president said: “There is going to be total overhaul of the old terminal (MMIA) from December 2019 so that together with the new terminal, it will work at full capacity. This is why FAAN is currently managing the old utilities at the terminal that tend to break down often these days. All of them will be replaced with new ones when the work is completed.
“The airports are not ripe for concession yet. We do not support concession of airports but we are fully behind the government in its plan to establish a national carrier and maintenance facility (maintenance, repair and overhaul facility (MRO) in the country. We are also in support of aerotropolise. All these will create jobs for Nigerians but they should leave existing airports alone. They cannot be concessioned because most businesses going on at the airports are under concession.”
According to him, aviation workers believe that with a national carrier and maintenance facility, government would create more jobs for the teeming youths.
“The truth is that we have started running the airports like private business. We need more money to transform the facilities. We have old facilities; so, we need money to replace them with modern ones. The FAAN managing director is also working hard to boost the agency’s revenue. Definitely if federal government insists on concession, what it will pay will be far more than what it will earn from the airports concession. Not only that; it will cause more confusion that may derail the original objective of the concession programme,” the NUATE president said.
He added that the workers welcome Aerotropolis because it would improve air transport in Nigeria and urged government to also concession aeronautical development of the airspace so that private investors can invest in landing aids, communications, radar equipment and others.
On improving the revenue base of FAAN, the managing director said FAAN was strategising on how to boost non-aeronautical revenue base of the agency.
“As a matter of fact, most airport companies are now concentrating more on the non-aeronautical sources of revenue generation, which is very elastic in nature, as against the traditional aeronautical sources that are limited. For us in FAAN, we are also looking in this direction, as we are presently partnering with investors to develop various business architectures at our airports, using mutually beneficial business models,” he said.
However, the Secretary of a think-thank industry group, Aviation Round Table (ART) and former Commandant of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd), told reproters that Nigeria should concession the airports to have enough resources to modernise and upgrade airport facilities, including aeronautical aids.
“Air safety is threatened without these critical equipment and facilities. As long as we allow government to handle infrastructure in aviation, we can never progress. And that is why I keep on saying that government must remove its hands from infrastructure and leave it with private operators or partnership with private operators and the regulator. There are a lot of things that are wrong with our airports. You don’t start putting infrastructure anywhere without the regulator. There is a provision in Annex 14 (of the International Civil Aviation Organisation regulation) on what the regulator must do. The designing must be approved and even if you want to restructure, the designing must be approved.
“The Lagos airport was built for the passenger traffic flow for the 1980s. So, as long as political office holders get involved with aviation, the industry will never progress and this is global. We can only be progressing within our own environment. This is why I personally support the issue of concession,” Ojikutu said.