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Nigerians want upgrade of airport's facilities


Stakeholders in the aviation industry on Monday called for upgrade of airport facilities across the country in order to boost the contribution of the sector to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
 
The stakeholders made the appeal while appraising the performance of the industry as Nigeria marks her 58th Independence Anniversary.
 
Mr Ikechi Uko, a travel and tourism expert, said aviation remains an integral part of the economy that should be harnessed for the development of the country.
 
He said: “For me, I want to look at the performance of aviation on two fronts. The first is how our domestic airlines are doing which I can said is very good for now.
 
“At present, a single Nigeria carrier (Air Peace) has more aircraft than even more than five or six West African carriers which is very good for our industry and it means we are beginning to get it right.
 
“However, in terms of infrastructure, we are still far behind compared to even countries like Ghana, Senegal and Togo.
 
“We need to upgrade our airports and equip them with modern facilities that would improve passenger facilitation and experience like our contemporaries are doing,’’ Uko, the promoter of the Akwaaba African Travel and Tourism, market said.
 
Also, the Chairman of Air Peace, Mr Allen Onyema, said aviation had the capacity to create jobs for the teeming unemployed Nigerian youths, adding that Air Peace has employed over 3,000 workers in less than four years of operation.
 
Onyema urged the Federal Government to continue to support Nigerian carriers and prioritise their interests and survival above foreign airlines operating in the country.
 
Onyema said: “This present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has been supportive of domestic airlines and has put in place policies like removal of Value Added Tax and waiver on importation of aircraft spares.
 
“We also believe a lot can still be done to encourage the industry especially in the area of airport infrastructure.
 
“Airlines don’t create hubs, infrastructure does. People want to pass through your airport because of the facilities that are readily available and Ghana and other some African countries are making their airports hubs and are leaving Nigeria behind.”
 
According to him, the best option for bridging the aviation infrastructure gap is to urgently concession the airports to Nigerian investors who are ready to invest in the sector.
 
Similarly, Mr Frances Akinjole, the Deputy General Secretary, Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), said addressing the infrastructural deficit would help to secure the industry’s future.
 
“The government should strengthen safety and security infrastructure at the terminal and upgrading of runway facilities should be addressed for safe landing of aircraft at the major international airports, starting with Abuja, Lagos, Kano and Port Harcourt.
 
“The government needs to fund the maintenance and upgrading of airfield equipment, including navigational aids, airfield lighting, approach facilities, communications and radar equipment.
 
“These are basic infrastructure needed for safe flight operations,” Akinjole noted.
 
He added that there was also need to upgrade meteorological equipment and research laboratories because weather report was very critical for safe flight operation.
 
On his part, Mr Olayinka Abioye, General Secretary, National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), said aviation was the face of any economy in the world.
 
Abioye said: “It will be recalled that the Minister of State for Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, had a road map and if they can be implemented then the aviation industry will be in a better position.
 
“The major road map include the establishment of maintenance, repair and overhaul facility, establishment of a national carrier which had been started but strategically suspended now and the establishment of an aircraft leasing company.
 
“If these three things alone are followed thoroughly, transparently and inclusively then the Nigeria aviation industry will ever be the same again.
 
“But by and large we have not done badly because the Lagos and Abuja airports recently got their certifications and we also got recertification of our airports by the Federal Airport Administration (FAA) of the United States.”
 

He also advised government to improve in the area of security at the airports which was in consonance with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Annex 17.