Nigeria’s 26 airports process only 15 million passengers annually, despite the country having a population of 180 million people. Lagos airport alone accounts for 65 percent of this traffic.
By comparison, United Kingdom’s Heathrow Airport alone processes 78 million passengers yearly, in a country of about 65 million people. Heathrow is the second busiest airport in the world by international passenger traffic, the busiest airport in Europe by passenger traffic, and the seventh busiest airport in the world by total passenger traffic.
Currently, Heathrow boasts about 96 percent utilisation, with an aircraft taking off and landing every 45 seconds within the hours 6am-11.30pm.
Whereas only 597 flights land and take off at Nigeria’s 26 airports daily, the number of flights landing and taking off daily at Heathrow Airport is 1,300. This is more than twice the number of aircraft movement in Nigeria’s 26 airports.
Yet Heathrow has two runways.
Clearly, Nigeria’s existing runways are grossly underutilised. It is therefore surprising to hear the National Assembly Joint Committee on Aviation and the Enugu State government canvassing for the construction of a second runway each for Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja and Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu. Abuja and Enugu airports combined process less than 30 percent of Nigeria’s 15 million annual passenger traffic.
Industry experts and engineers have explained that Nigeria’s airports do not need new runways at this time but infrastructural upgrade, which should be done by Public Private Partnerships (PPP) through airport concessions.
In the last 10 years, government has spent N1 billion in airports remodelling, yet the standards of Nigeria’s airports do not reflect that this amount has been spent.
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) should rather consider carrying out periodic maintenance programmes as recommended by the documents supporting the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Annex 14 for aerodrome’s standards, which include the Lagos airport that has just been hurriedly given certification by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) in anticipation of its concession.
The writer can be reached via 07030791726.