Lagos — Infrastructure upgrades at the nation's 22 airports are currently underway. Some already completed and are being used and others at various stages of completion. All the airports have had their capacities doubled, in some cases quadrupled for greater profitability.
Five new international terminals are also coming up in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu - the architectural designs rival other international terminals abroad. And then, the perishable cargo terminals, 15 of them in all, rising from hitherto virgin lands across the country, exciting the government, farmers and other agricultural stakeholders down the value chain. Considering Nigeria's current zero earnings from perishables even though she has sufficient fresh farm produce almost all year round, there couldn't be a better offering to the farming communities.
When the terminals and the other facilities are completed, government projects that additional 80,000 - 100,000 job opportunities would have been created.
The government also projects that the aviation industry will contribute an additional N300 billion to the Nigerian economy directly and indirectly in addition to the about N200 billion it currently provides. This will come from additional investments, construction of the infrastructure and FDI into the industry.
Overall, government projects that the industry will in future make a net GDP contribution of over N500 billion to the Nigerian economy annually and will support more than 200,000 jobs in Nigeria.
Thus, to ensure all of the airports are delivered on time (before May 2015) and to specification so Nigerians can begin to benefit from them, the Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah, has been inspecting facilities across airports in the country. The inspection which started January 31, 2013 has seen her inspect facilities at about eight airports: Yola International Airport, Sultan Abubakar III International Airport, Sokoto (where they are building the biggest Hajj Terminal), Ilorin International Airport and Margaret Ekpo International Aiport, Calabar. Others are Port Harcourt International Airport, Sam Mbakwe Airport, Owerri, the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu and The Jos airport.
At every airport, she expressed satisfaction with the pace of work and the quality. "I'm very happy and I'm impressed. We are on schedule and the quality is good. We want to say to Nigerians that there are more to come in the aviation industry. We are not just focusing on the terminals, we are ensuring that Nigeria's aviation industry is repositioned and has the aviation industry that we deserve."
Giving specifics on some of the terminals, she said, the Sokoto the terminal will process over 600,000 passengers when completed, Calabar 1.2 million passengers per annum. The minister said while the Hajj Terminal and perishable cargo in Sokoto have just been started, the Sokoto Airport terminal is almost ready for commissioning. She also said the perishable cargo terminals in Yola, Ilorin, Enugu, Jos and others are also underway.
At Port Harcourt, she dismissed insinuations that the airport was abandoned. "We have seen the dry cargo terminal, the perishable cargo, international terminal, the VIP and general aviation terminal under construction in Port Harcourt. So it amazes me when someone says, nothing is happening in Port Harcourt. Aviation is the economic changer. For us in aviation, we are proud and we pray for strength to achieve our goals" she noted.
She also noted that at the Enugu international airport alone, about 400 jobs are currently directly created.
She explained that most of the structures have been reconstructed and not just rehabilitated.
These facilities are for Nigerians so they can travel comfortably and in safety. If you take Calabar for instance, we have quadrupled the capacity. For those of you who are familiar with Calabar airport, it was tiny, ugly and unsafe for an international terminal. Calabar is a tourist destination so it's important we make it beautiful. Our guarantee is that aviation repositioning will continue."
"Even here in Calabar, we are building a big perishable terminal as well. The foundation has started just as on the other cargo terminals. When the cargo terminal is complete, it will enhance the socio-economic status of Cross River state," she said.
Commenting, the Managing Director of FAAN, George Uriesi said, "we have provided capacity for Calabar for the next 10 years. Because we have provided capacity for growth of the airport, Calabar can market itself. Calabar can take several airlines now. With the cargo terminal, we can evacuate all the perishables around Calabar. In the old terminals, there were no commercial offerings but the new terminals have opportunities for commercial offerings. We have shops, restaurants; bar etc. you don't even need to fly before you can come to the airport and shop. Same in all the airports we are building. So from a revenue perspective, FAAN would be making as much as five times the revenue we are making now."
The Accident Investigative and prevention Bureau Boss, Captain Usman Muktar, said a lot on security had been considered in the new terminals. "Building of terminal also entails security and crowd control. There are several security details behind the scene that the passengers don't get to see," he said.
Though some Nigerians are apprehensive that some of these projects may not be completed. They reckon the terminals being built at the same time are quite many with huge resources needed to complete them. But the minister recently assured that none of the projects will be abandoned by this administration.