Is doubling Nigerian airports by 2023 the priority?

RECENTLY, the federal government through the minister of aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika announced that by 2023, the number of the country’s airports may be doubled to enhance air connectivity and boost the economy.

Dropping this hint at the public presentation of the 2021 budget proposal in Abuja, Sirika declared: “We understood the principles and importance of air connectivity and it is a very important sector. It boosts our economy and we believe investment in this sector will do well for our economy.”

This  announcement by Sirika has attracted reactions from key players either in support or against depending on the interpretation and effect of such policy.

According to investigations, the declaration by the minister does not mean that the federal government will directly construct more airports, rather, there are indications that over 10 state governments have applied to the minister and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) requesting to be cleared to construct airports in their states.

Some of the state governments in question have indicated interests to construct the airports for the purpose of opening up their states to boost cargo and agro allied businesses.

Besides the economic hardship crippling every inch of the governments at the center and in the various states, coupled with the disastrous COVID-19 pandemic and lately the ENDSARS protests raging through the 36 states with its imminent cash crunch and hard times waiting to explode, it becomes unreasonable for any state government to still embark on airport construction now, as this should be the least in the priority of the needs of the citizens of the respective states.

With the events that had and are still unfolding in the ongoing ENDSARS protests, both the states and federal governments should realize that there is hunger and anger in the land which requires reasonable and urgent actions that will engender economic stimulus packages that will bring food to the tables of Nigerians which construction of airports cannot resolve.

Presently, there are over 28 airports across the country out of which 22 belong to the federal government, six to state governments and two privately owned. It is on record that even the federal government has performed abysmally low in making the federal airports viable, being the reason it’s rushing to embrace the controversial concession of the most viable airports.

Without any bias, the statuses of the state owned airports are nothing to write home about apart from the fanfare that came with their commissioning which gulped billions of Naira of public funds.

Many of the state-owned airports had in the past one year not witnessed a single flight operation with all the equipment installed there rusting away while citizens of the states wallop in hunger and poverty.

The governors interpreting the idea of using the construction of airport to mean dividends of democracy to their people should think otherwise as what is needed is, using the humongous funds required to build such airport  to tackle decadence in education, build good roads, good healthcare facilities and make their respective states safe for the average citizen to be able to farm and carry out their businesses. How many of the average citizens can afford flying with the hardships confronting them.

The time is not yet ripe for the states in Nigeria to start building airports, unless ulterior motives are behind such thoughts. It is easy to build an airport but to maintain and keep it functional is another kettle of fish which may not be in the agenda of the successive governments in the various states.

Crucial Moment is urging the minister and the aviation authorities to advise the state governments nursing this tall ambition to shelve the idea until the various states and Nigeria as a whole become friendlier to the citizens.

State governments claiming to use airports to grow their states should rather consider working with the federal government to use the federal airports around them to better the lots of their states. This can again be achieved through making roads leading to their states seamless and safe and not building airports which will only rot away.

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