The Ministry of Aviation last week made public its plan to fully overhaul and develop the aviation sector and also its plan to transparently involve the private sector in the development of airport infrastructure through public private partnerships.
In a 16-page blueprint, Nigeria Aerotropolis, the ministry outlined how government intends to grow air transportation, develop strong, viable airlines, expand and improve airport infrastructure and make them profitable.
This would involve a total departure from the way the nation's airports and airlines are managed presently to expanded airport infrastructure that will host large business centres with innovative and expanded non-aeronautical sources, thus making airports major sources of revenue for the Federal Government.
The government, in the aerotropolis model outlined strategies for development and the growth of manpower for the aviation industry, which is presently suffering from the dearth of professionals in technical areas and often resorts to expatriates, without which domestic air operations would be grounded.
The goal of the model is to attract investment into the sector, upgrade and expand airport infrastructure to world class standards, and increase revenue generation from the aviation sector through an economic enforcement framework and mechanism for assessing economic risks and threats.
The actualisation of this plan would provide stricter regulation on accountability and transparency in operations of airports and airlines which are expected to bring down maintenance costs of airport equipment.
The plan would provide a comprehensive and timely passenger and cargo data management system which would improve accountability and security, both factors which are presently lacking at the airports.
This would also block the notorious loopholes at the various non-aeronautical revenue sources; it would also plug leakages in infrastructure procurement,reduce costs and diesel theft and improve avenues for capacity development in the sector.
The plan would also see to the development of a more competent and dedicated workforce in the aviation industry by replacing an ageing workforce with better trained, more competent staff aided by appropriate tools.
The plan will solve the nagging problem of inadequate manpower by facilitating the establishment of more aviation training institutions that would enhance the training of a younger workforce in the core areas of aviation technology.
To actualise this objective, it is expected that there would be substantial private sector investment to ensure its success and sustainability, and for the private sector to be committed, it is expected that they would be given tax holidays and other incentives, including capital allowances.
With an annual turnover of over 14 million passengers in Nigeria, the aerotropolis blueprint is modelled after similar the Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam; Dallas/Forth Worth International Airport (DFW) in Dallas, Texas, USA; the Dubai World Central International (DWC) in Dubai, UAE; and the Oliver Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg, South Africa.
The Nigeria Aerotroplois model will be entail a four-phased approach. The first is the Emergency Phase, which is currently ongoing, and entails the rehabilitation being undertaken in some of the major airports in the country.
These include renovation of the Murtala Muhammad International Airport, Lagos; Port Harcourt Airport; Aminu Kano Airtport, Kano; Benin Airport; Akanu Ibiam Airport, Enugu; Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja; and the Margaret Ekpo Airport, Calabar.
The second phase would entail terminal development and expansion under public private partnerships; the third phase will continue with the upgrade of airport infrastructure, safety and security; while the fourth phase will focus on the implementation of long-term sustainability operational and commercial measures.
In order to get the buy into the aerotropolis model and attract investment, the Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, alongside officials of the ministry and members of the organised private sector, has embarked on a road show to Dubai, China and Canada to woo foreign investors to key into the transformation agenda for the aviation sector.