In this interview, the managing director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Mr. Saleh Dunoma speaks on plans to zero in on non-aeronautical sources of revenue, steps taken to recover debts owed to the agency by airlines and concessionaires as well as measures adopted to stop unlawful access to sensitive areas of airports, among some other issues. Excerpts
Diversification of revenue generating sources
Yes, aeronautical revenues are very straight forward and very easy to capture; these are services that are much defined and the charges are also well-defined. That also makes it easy for us to collect. A lot of our revenues come from aeronautical sources, but that is not to say that we don’t have non-aeronautical sources. However, we are trying to develop non-aeronautical revenues this is because we want to concentrate on our core activities, which is providing facilities to flight operations and passenger movement.
In most cases, in order for us to free ourselves from distractions, we try to see that the non-aeronautical revenues are concessioned; so, we concession out the car parks, toll gates and others so that FAAN can concentrate on their core issues. That is providing and managing the airports operations. I know there are some countries that have high non-aeronautical revenues and aeronautical too. Nigeria is moving towards that gradually and by the time we design projects like aerotropolis, bring about a lot of developments on the landside of the airport, we would be seen to have developed the non-aeronautical sources of revenues.
We have issued out pieces of land for construction of hotels and other giant projects that we feel by the time they are completely completed and commissioned, w are going to earn more revenues from non-aeronautical sources. We are working hard on that, but we want to concentrate on the aeronautical sources so that we make sure that we provide the services that we are expected to provide to airlines and passengers.
Huge debts owed to FAAN
As long as we continue to do business, there would continue to be debts here and there. There is no day you will say nobody or airline owes (FAAN), but as long as we continue with credit policy that gives them two weeks, indebtedness will always be there, you can never eliminate it, but what we have done in recent time was to call all our concessionaires in our regional offices to a meeting to reconcile and we have reconciled with almost everybody and we created a programme of payment, which is signed up by each and every person.
So, we look at what is reasonable and what they can pay monthly. We signed off on that. Everybody has some debts to pay, but we are making arrangement and with that plan in place, I think we are good to go. We don’t have issues with the airlines. Unless if they now default on the programme of payment, then, it means we need to call them back again and sit down for us to look at it and know why you are defaulting. We are ready to listen to everybody that is doing business with us; we will listen to them, consider their issues and see how we can work with them to make sure they are also comfortable and make them to make commitments on how to pay our debts.
Completion of terminals at Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja and Kano airports
We have to change the completion dates of the terminals under construction in the five or six airports because of issues raised by the contractors. There was an evaluation because of the devalued of naira to dollar. When the contract was awarded, I think a dollar was N165 and today, it is over N300 and the approval process to the variation was a bit lengthy. As we speak today, we are getting to the end of the journey, we have got Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) approval. So, the contractors have never stopped work. If you visited recently, Port Harcourt is over 80 per cent completed, followed by Abuja and Lagos.
If you go to Abuja, the avio bridges are shooting out from the terminal building and all the materials are there on sight, but just awaiting the installations. So, we believe that by the middle of this year, Lagos and Abuja should be ready. We have a lot of external work to do because we need to extend the apron especially in Lagos; in Port Harcourt, they have already started with the apron and it is about 33 per cent completed; Abuja also, they have started with the apron, already installing the Avio Bridge in Abuja.
So, Abuja will come up very soon. Just recently, we were there with Senator Hadi Sirika and the Federal Capital Territory Minister to look at how we can commission the building with the light rails that are servicing the airport. We are working with the FCT to make sure that we synchronise our activities in such a way that passengers can start using the light rail to the airport. Very soon, the light rail in Abuja would be commissioned, alongside the terminal building and passengers can now come by train and also leave the airport by train.
Unauthorised access to airport sensitive areas
Airport is a public place; there are certain areas that are restricted and there are some of the areas that are allowed for public to have access. As you know, we have various categories of people coming to the airport apart from the airline staff, you still have other people that are providing services. So, that is why we have the airport access control system. Apart from that, since it is a public place, there is a limit to what you can do in order to stop people from getting access to some areas they are not supposed to access. So, we have a lot of measures in place and one of them is of course the proper fencing of the airport to restrict access to the place, we have perimeter patrol and there is technology also, which is for surveillance.
To some extent, we have these facilities in all the airports, but security challenges always come up in different forms. If you address this challenge, the challenge will come back again in another form. So, the only way out is to improve on our technology. As we speak, there are things going on at Lagos and Abuja airports to make sure that we cover all the restricted areas with Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras. This is ongoing; in Lagos, it is 80 per cent completed and it is about 70 per cent completed in Abuja. We will soon commission this and once it is commissioned, our people will sit up and monitor these restricted locations. This is going to help us a lot.
In addition to that, we are buying another technology, which is a mobile system that has cameras on it and can see up to seven kilometers. So, we will position it and even at night, it has cameras that will watch all the sensitive areas of the airport; the runway, apron and the other restricted areas.
By the time we have all these technologies in place and we improve on the perimeter road, we mend some of the broken fences, the security will be watertight and nobody will be able to have access to the restricted areas and if you try to access it, you will be caught because of the technology put in place.
Controversial air passenger traffic figures
If you have two or three people doing the same thing, the tendency is that there would be difference in whatever they are doing and if you have four or five agencies collecting data, definitely, there would be differences in data collection at the end of the day, but what we have resolved to do in order to get to the root of these differences, is to have better reconciliation. All the statisticians in the agencies will come together from NCAAA, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), FAAN and others will come together so that we will reconcile the information, the numbers before we issue them out.
But, for the purpose of day-to-day data, we have to rely on what we collect and then, later on, we can do reconciliation either with our agencies or our immediate stakeholders so that whatever data that is sent out, is data that is agreeable to all of us. So, this reconciliation we do quarterly with the agencies helps us a lot in order to make sure that at the end of the year when we want to publish our information, the data is captured by all of us and the airlines. These data are regularly reconciled to ensure we get required information and all the errors are usually minimised.
Partnership with state governments that have airports
We have memorandum of understanding with several state governments that have airports, about six or seven of them. These include Gombe, Bauchi, Jigawa, Kebbi, Akwa Ibom and Delta states. We are providing security service, fire cover, marshalling and some technical assistance. The airports are standard already because they did not build the airport without our consultations. They consulted us, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and all the parastatals through the ministry of aviation. During those consultations, we gave the guidelines, consultants and others in designing the airports. So, the airports are compliant by standards. The only thing they need to do is to improve these airports on infrastructure, technology or personnel and they will get back to us and we provide them with technical materials so that they will do it in accordance with international best practices, International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and NCAA standards.
They don’t work in isolation; they work with us so that at the end of the day, whatever they are providing in terms of technology, they are cleared by us. They can then go ahead and implement.