By Udeme Clement
A former Assistant Secretary General, Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), Alhaji Mohammed Tukur, has supported the ranking of two Nigerian airports namely, Port Harcourt and Kano among the 10 worst airports in Africa.
Tukur made this known in a chat with Sunday Vanguard in Lagos, stressing that the decay in the affected airports had been identified many years back by stakeholders and airline operators, but those in authority refused to listen and take appropriate action to restructure the airports.
According to him, “The situation has a telling effect on local airline operators, but now it has become a national issue because of the ranking by the international body. We started complaining seriously about the situation of these airports from the time of the former aviation minister, Mrs, Stella Oduah, but government did not take practical steps to put them in order. We travel out of this country every time and we see what airports in other countries look like. So, this is the time for government to do the needful in order to put them in proper shape.”
He went on, “Another issue now is about safety of Nigerian airspace. I am appealing to the aviation authority to transfer control of the runway landing light to air traffic controller on duty.
Not that they should remove everything about supply of light and give to NAMA, no. Let the Federal Airport Authority provide the light, but the control switch must be with the air traffic controller on duty, so that if an aircraft is landing at night and the light is not bright, the controller on duty can increase the light, and if the pilot says that the light is too bright on his eyes, the controller can equally adjust it for him to see well, in order to ensure safety.
Not a situation where the pilot is about to land, the aircraft is speeding very fast and the air traffic controller would take his phone and call someone in another office who has the control switch, when the pilot is about to land and light is not normal. Let us make these changes to work in line with the global trend.”
About privatisation of specific airports, he said, “It is done in advanced countries and that is how it ought to be, to enhance efficiency in the system. Those opposing privatisation do not mean well for this sector.
We are not saying government should sell the entire airports, but facilities like the run-ways, terminal buildings and other maintenance services can be managed by private investors. For example, we have Bi-Courtney aviation services in place and those facilities can go to the Bi-Courtney. In fact, we need more Bi-Courtney aviation services for local, international and other places.
“ Take London airport for instance, private investors are those running some of the facilities there. Government provide those facilities for private investors to manage them prudently, and that is exactly what we need in this country. It is a way of curtailing corruption to fast track development in the industry.
The duty of government is to supervise and provide security and not getting involved in the day-to-day management of the airports. Government should only retain a percentage of the business. Private investors should run the facilities in order to rake in more revenue, rather than leaving everything to collapse in the hands of government officials, to the detriment of the entire economy.”