Aviation contributes about one billion dollars to the Nigerian economy annually – Yakubu Dati

by Yakubu Dati, general manager, public communications of FAAN, tells Ifeoma Okeke

February 18, 2016 | 12:21 am
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One industry that has continued to show prospects of growth in Nigeria is the Aviation industry. In an interview with Yakubu Dati, general manager, public communications of FAAN, tells Ifeoma Okeke about the recent developments at the Nigerian airports that will help measure up with the growth of the industry.

Can you give a brief insight on the condition of the Nigerian airports today?

There is so much that is been done in the aviation sector, to the position of Nigeria’s aviation sector as a centre piece of aviation in Africa. In the first place, we have had issues with the Murtala Muhammed International terminal which was constructed in 1978. A facility that is nearing 40 years has its wear and tear and that is why we are building a new terminal which is going to answer most of the teething problems that are there. Even while the new terminal is being constructed, the old one has been expanded to meet up with the growing traffic and growing challenges.

For instance, we have increased the checking counters from eight to about 40 at the International airport. We have also increased the number of conveyor belts to about eight and installed brand new ones. All these we have done to expand and make passenger facilitation easier. We are also expanding the International terminal to accommodate about 20-room hotel to prepare the airport as a regional hub.

We are also building departure and arriving lounges for work ways so that the passengers will not be meeting as it is the case now. Right now, we have a work way that leads to the departure gate. So, the passengers who are departing work on the left and those arriving work on the right. Now we are building a facility on top, so that arriving will work on the ground and departure will work on top so that no meeting of passengers arriving and those leaving. All that is in the old terminal we are working on and we are building a new one that will answer all these, which will be fitted with modern facilities for the disabled, escalators, elevators and all the modern things accompanying a new airport will be there. We are also building in Abuja, Kano, Port-Harcourt and Enugu. All these we are doing to ensure we play our role as the most populous country in Africa.

How come only five out of about twenty-two airports controlled by FAAN are really busy in Nigeria?

Five airports are busy because for the traffic trend and the commercial activities, Lagos is the busiest, followed by Abuja, being the federal capital, then Port-Harcourt as a hub of the oil industry, then Kano. We are a self-financing agency; we don’t receive federal allocations to pay our salaries. We pay our salaries from what we make from the airports, which are what we spread out to service the others, since the others also service the main airports with passengers at the end of the day.

Do you also do economic intelligent reports for the ministry or government?

We concentrate more on the airports, so we look at non-aeronautical sources of funding. That is why the new terminal that we built round the country are fitted with provisions for commercial offerings where you have banks, eateries, pharmacies and all that is to do businesses other than the core business of aviation. The airport is a captive market, so we take advantage of this to create a situation for people to come in and do business and most of the airport managers are also encouraged to look at areas where they can take non-aeronautical sources of revenues to be able to run the airports. We usually encourage the airlines to also develop their flights. But it is purely their decision and it is a commercial venture. Some of them are looking at Kano to Port-Harcourt, to capture the trade there. Those are the areas we believe that if airlines begin to look at, they will make more money. The number of people that go by buses from the North to the East for instance, where they go for businesses in Aba and Onitsha, if we run hubs around these places, we are bound to capture those markets because it is already existing. This will save time and lives. They can put their goods on the buses and take a flight.

One area there is a gap, is in the area of cargo, particularly, fresh perishable cargo requiring refrigerator. Have you considered investing in this area?

In 2010, 240million dollars was made from exports of perishable goods from Africa and we have countries like Ghana, Cameron, South Africa, Zimbabwe, exporting things like flowers, roses, oranges but none from Nigeria and that was what gave birth to our decision to go into cargo. Right now, we have designated about 14 airports for cargo and work has started. There is also procedure for cargo, which we have started working on with relevant agencies like the standardization agencies. Before your goods get to the international market, there are rules, they must pass through some standard processes. There is also where the Chamber of Commerce can come in to relate with that and lab tests will be carried to know the contents. Generally, people who travel out tell us the oranges we take out there cannot compete with what we have. We have all these and Nigerians are predominantly farmers. Usually during harvest, there wastages and prices also crash. This is one area we are looking at and we believe that even the new airports that are coming, by the time they are structured towards cargo, especially perishable cargo, it will make it easier because we have the goods and the markets. It is just to create that bridge, which comes with building of storage facility because doing a terminal for cargo comes with these facilities. Vegetables, meats and fruits are pure. You just need to plant the crops, pour water, and add cow dung and they grow. These are all natural things, instead of injecting them with chemicals that could be harmful to the health. These are all advantages we have and government is working towards that direction. These are some of the things we have on ground that we are working on to ensure we optimize our position and we believe that with the challenge of oil downpour, we will have more attention to contribute more to the GDP.

As I speak with you, aviation contributes about one million dollars to the Nigerian economy annually and we employ over 150thousand people in the industry. So, it is a critical industry. Though we have different responsibilities, it is one industry.

Every Christmas the Nigerian in diaspora coming home complain of the airport being very hot. What are you doing about the cooling system here?

In the first place the airport is supposed to be fitted with chillers because of the size. Following the expansion, we needed more chillers and these chillers are to be measured. The companies have come in and have taken measurement so that they design chillers to fit in the airport. But in the time being, we have installed more 200 five tones air conditioners that have been effective in cooling the MM1 airport. The chillers are ordered for and it takes time, that is why we now have the new ones working round the clock to cool the place and they have proven to be effective. The new terminal is coming with all these to take care of all that. In the old terminal also, we have had to change a lot of cables because the capacity has increased and traffic has grown. We have more shops, commercial offices, more people using fridges and other electronic gadgets. 

Yakubu Dati

by Yakubu Dati, general manager, public communications of FAAN, tells Ifeoma Okeke

February 18, 2016 | 12:21 am
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