Nigeria’s airports not yet ripe for privatisation

Recently, the Federal Government announced its plan to privatise the four international airports in the country.

Speaking through the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, the government said the planned privatisation/concession of the four airports was to guarantee efficiency and good management in view of dwindling resources from the government for infrastructural development in the aviation industry.

According to investigations, the airports to be privatised are: the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos; the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja; the Port Harcourt International Airport and the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano.

It is no news that the four airports in question are the most viable and source of revenue generation not only for the government, but pillars to other 18 inviable airports spread across the country.

Since the announcement was made, there have been reactions from key players in the country with many raising questions as to the justification behind singling out the most viable of the airports for privatisation or whatever.

Latest of the reactions came from the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP), the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) branch, which has described the move as selfish and capable of aiding capitalism at the expense of Nigerians.

Equally, the pensioners raised the alarm about the security implications inherent in privatising the four airports which they said could be explored by dangerous elements to unleash havoc on the country. These and various other questions have continued to be raised by key players in the sector.

This is not the first time the idea of privatising the major airports has been mooted, but each time it was raised in the past, among such questions always raised was the sincerity and level of preparedness of the country towards it.

While the government has the right to come up with ideas that can make the airports more viable, certain things need to be considered before taking any step.

People often claim that there are countries that have had their airports successfully privatised, but they have failed to realise that such countries went through a thorough process which include patriotism, security, finance and labour issues.

Obviously, there are 22 airports being managed on behalf of the government by FAAN and it is on record that out of the lot, only four are viable with Lagos Airport being the most economically viable while Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano trail behind.

In other words, it is revenue mostly generated from the four that are used to service the inviable ones.

The question now is if the ‘four pillar’ airports are removed, what happens to the unviable ones? Who will continue to fund the inviable ones and of what economic benefits will they be to Nigerians?

Why privatise viable ones and why not inviable ones or why not pair two or four of inviable ones with one viable one for the so called privatisation?

Besides, who takes charge of security at the airports or is it wise to leave the security of any of the airports in the hands of individuals at this critical period when the country is fighting enemies all over? Again, which process or due diligence has been put on ground for the so called privatisation process and who are those involved?

These and many other questions are waiting for answers from the government, because presently, many key players believe that Nigeria is not yet ripe for the policy, believing that what is worth doing at all is worth doing well.

Government needs to listen to all sides on this as this will go to correct the insinuation that government wants to sell the juicy airports to its cronies leaving the inviable ones for Nigerians.