(AGENDAWATCHDOG) – The Minister of Aviation, Mr Hadi Sirika, has disclosed that the federal government has concluded plans to concession all its 41 airports across the country.
Of the 41 airports located in all the six geo-political zones of the country, five are international airports sited in Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt, Abuja and Maiduguri.
Sirika, who spoke at the public hearing on revenue projections for 2021-2023 MTEF/FSP paper organised by the Senate Joint Committee on Finance and National Planning, emphasised that the need to properly fund the aviation sector informed government’s latest move to concession the airports.
He said: “Every single agency in civil aviation is so critical that we need to fund it and because we understand the nature of this business, that was why we have now introduced the concession of our airports. We have now done the outline business case, we are now going ahead for the procurement to concession the airports.
“The reason is simple and that is because this government, the APC administration, is social democratic in nature, it does not want to sell national assets. It wants to keep the assets with the people but we can concession them and improve them to make them better. We are very sure that when we do that we will improve the revenue of the nation.”
The minister also stated that the aviation sector was the worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic which hit Nigeria along other nations in the world early this year.
He said: “Take for example the COVID-19 pandemic, we are the greatest hit sector. At the time when we came and in order to implement our agenda, which is called aviation road map, when we began to implement it, we slowly became the second fastest growing sector. Within the three years of implementation of that roadmap, we became in 2018, the second fasted growing sector of the Nigerian economy and just before COVID-19, we became the fastest growing sector in the Nigerian economy.
“But unfortunately, COVID-19 came and we shut down. We are not in the business of selling phones that we can still sell and get the required revenue. The revenue for yesterday is lost. Therefore, we were hugely impacted by the COVID-19 and with this COVID-19, I think until quarter four of 2021 and perhaps quarter one of 2022, we will continue to see sharp decline in passengers and that is directly proportional to the revenue that we collect, because people’s confidence has to be raised. They have to begin to want to fly again and certain factors that encourage propensity to fly are also being eroded during this period.
“So we are in difficult and challenging times and we do not have solutions to it even as advanced countries are spending huge amounts of money to support civil aviation businesses. The government, because of the challenge of funding has not been able to respond to civil aviation requests and civil aviation funding like other countries have done.”
POTENTIAL IMPACT: Consequent to the ravaging effects of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic on all critical sectors of the Nigerian economy, one of which is the aviation sector, there is an urgent need for government to raise funds to keep the economy afloat, without selling off national assets. This can be achieved by concession of the country’s airports for better service delivery and revenue generation.