Mr Mohammed Sadiq, a former Director of Engineering Services with the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), has advised the Federal Government not to privatise the Lagos and Abuja International Airports.Sadiq gave the advice while speaking with aviation correspondents on Thursday in Lagos.
The Minister of State for Aviation, Capt. Hadi Sirika, had said that the Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt airports would be privatised to improve air transportation in the country.
However, Sadiq noted that the concession of such viable airports would not be of benefit to Nigeria because it would reduce the revenue accruing to government, as well as for safety and security reasons.
He explained that with improved transparency which was the hallmark of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, the nation’s airports were capable of operating without capital from government.
According to him, FAAN generates N33 billion annually and can contribute 25 per cent of this revenue to the government’s account, especially with the introduction of the Treasury Single Account (TSA).
He added that the ongoing construction of new terminal buildings in the international airports could easily be paid for by FAAN, since it is at a very low interest rate of 2 per cent and payable over 22 years.
Comparing with data from the U.S., he noted that the busiest airport in the world, Hartfield-Jackson International
Airport in Atlanta, Georgia had an annual turnover of $24 billion.
According to him, this is equivalent to about N7.2trillion which is more than the N6.06trillion budget of Nigeria for 2016.
“It is this economic viability of our airport system that the economic terrorists are targeting by advocating privatisation of the only viable international airports, to the detriment of the overall development of the other airports.
“FAAN has been operating Nigeria’s Single Airport System by cross-subsidising the smaller airports that cannot break even on their own from the revenue generated by the bigger airports.
“If the few (actually two) viable airports are selected and concessioned, the other unviable airports are being deliberately killed by the greed of the concession advocates.
“This is not in the best interest of the country because most parts of the country will be disadvantaged by such a policy.
“Out of the 26 airports, including six state-owned airports, only two airports (Murtala Muhammed and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airports) are viable,”
“Cherry-picking the viable airports for concessioning will make the other airports neglected, unoperational and eventually become moribund,” Sadiq said.
He also urged the government to consider the issue of safety and security of the country if international airports were left in the hands of private individuals.
Sadiq said: “All airports are considered as borders of the host country. So they are security posts. The entire security of the nation can be compromised if the airports are in private hands.
“Setting up a government security apparatus to oversee the security cannot solve the problems because the private airport operator can create avenues to circumvent security in the transportation of arms, drugs, fake currency and other dangerous goods.”
He, therefore, urged the government to restructure FAAN, which already had over 40 years experience in airport management, in order for the agency to become more vibrant and efficient in the discharge of its responsibilities.