The minister of state for aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika has said that the only way to redress the current parlous state of Nigerian airports is to give them out to concessionaires.
Addressing a stakeholders’ forum in Lagos, Sirika who was explaining the rationale behind the resolve to give out the international airports in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja and Kano to concessionaires said concession would bring about private sector financing and effective management of the terminals.
Sirika said government would still retain ownership of such terminals explaining that government lacked enough funds to invest in them hence they are better off if they are given out to concessionaires who would operate them until the expiration of the concession period.
He said the current state of Nigerian airports had made it extremely difficult for Nigeria to attract the desired number of passengers to transform the country into a hub.
“Nigeria has potential to do between 70 to 100 million passengers annually, within the next five years, if the right things are put in place.
“The 15 million annual passengers which is the country’s current capacity can be improved upon if private investors are allowed to participate in the sector.
He added: “Government does not have money to put into these businesses and we don’t want to sell these facilities either; so that is why we are concessioning them because it is the only way to go.
“We no longer have money to put in public property but we will not sell or privatize. As social democrats all we can do is to concession them so as to grow them. And that we will.
“Government has no plans whatsoever to sell national assets but it was sheer misconception to see the unions on the streets demonstrating against what they thought was sale of the airports. The airports will be given to concessionaires, the big four and later six of the cargo designated airports and this will help us not just to grow and expand the sector but put us in the right path to be established as a hub,” said Sirika.
Sirika said Dubai and Doha airports, for instance, are world-class because they boast about spars, malls and supermarkets whereas the features at Nigerian airport terminals are cigarette and liquor shops.
“The present government will not allow the terminals to remain like that. Airports like Dubai, Doha people go there just to see the airport or shop, the magnificence of the airport is attractive on its own. People go there to use their amazing duty free (shops) where you get spars, malls and the like but what do we have in our duty-free except cigarettes and alcohol shops? With concession, we can change that and make our airports the cynosure of all eyes.
“And concession will not only achieve aesthetics; right now our airports are in so sorry states that they cannot handle aircraft like the Airbus A380 or the Boeing 787 dreamliner. But if we get this right…you will see the impact,” he said.