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Aviation professional flays airport proliferation, canvasses hub development

President of Aviation Safety Round Table and President Sabre West Africa, Dr Gabriel Olowo has faulted the rush for the establishment of airports by state governments.

The expert claimed that most of the existing aerodromes are not commercially viable to attract flights to the facilities.

Rather, Olowo advised that efforts should be geared towards developing hubs at the major airports in the country, especially at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos with so many terminals in order to attract more traffic and airlines.

Speaking with Aviation Metric in an interview on Tuesday, Olowo observed that most of the airports apart from the ones in Lagos, Abuja and Port-Harcourt were not commercially viable.

According to him, facilities that would make the existing airports a hub are still lacking in most of the country’s airports and mentioned the absence of a concourse light train network to connect domestic terminals and vice versa both in Lagos, Abuja, Port-Harcourt and Kano.

Installation of modern technology facilities like self-checking service kiosks he noted were also lacking.

He noted that there exist too many toll gate checkpoints rather than the many agencies to share data and file a single watch list with security, stressing that this is a major disincentive for hub development.

His words, “Passenger facilitation is made more cumbersome rather than the global effort at making it seamless”.

Olowo lamented that the intra and interstate road linkages to the airports are in deplorable states and wondered how much such airports would be useful to farmers and other users to deliver their products.

He emphasized that airports are not only expensive to build because of the many facility linkages but also expensive to maintain.

He submitted that there must be a short and long-term enforceable plan by succeeding governments before embarking on airport development if the government were to be a continuum.

“One governor quitting and another abandoning the project such as revealed during the launch of Ogun state agro airport runway is lamentable. For Lagos airport, for instance, to become a hub, first class and world-class airport transfer connection facility is necessary”.

“Concourse light train should be built to connect the terminals rather than allowing transit and or transfer passengers to check out of the Customs, burst into the precarious mammoth crowd in rain and shine with their baggage in order to pick a taxi to the next connecting terminal”.

He further described it as very absurd and a shame at the Murtala Muhammed Airport 45 years of its existence since 1978, noting that transfer/ transit passengers dread the Lagos airport, especially in the evenings.

Regarding cargo airports, the Sabre boss stated that the roads to take the products to the airports are either not available or in bad shape with a high propensity for trucks to tumble with perishable goods destroyed including explosive goods risking explosion including day-old chicken and eggs massively destroyed.

He urged states to put their heads together for the establishment of safe, functional and durable interstate road linkages first, rather than conceiving the idea of new agro-airports.

Yenogoa international airport

The airports in the western region of Ibadan and others, he lamented are still operating below capacity, stressing that the neighbouring states should cooperate on road and rail linkages and upgrade the airport to a world-class standard for the service of Ogun, Oyo, Ondo and Ekiti rather than individual state effort at establishing own airport.

“It is bad economics if airports are to deliver economies of scale. Airport maintenance is not cheap and must be done routinely. All we need is to make an effort at turning the existing ones into hubs”.

He called for a deliberate effort to develop hubs and not build non-functional airport silos all over the states overstretching the already stressed treasury.

On the plan by Abia and Edo state governments to build additional airports in their states, Olowo described it as good politics but bad economics, querying, “What is the status of once glorious Benin Airport? Why not visit the old ruins?’

He wondered if the state governments had short and long-term development plans for their states, reiterating that each state should necessarily have a 5-10 years developmental plan for their states which must be strictly honoured by subsequent leadership.

He tasked governments to prioritise the need of the people ranging from basics of life like food, shelter, health, and education among others, noting that airport construction goes beyond acquiring hectares of land without perimeter fencing, compromising the safety of operations ab nitio, constructing substandard runways that would be washed away in one or two raining seasons.

He described airport projects as highly capital-intensive projects that should be embarked upon after a robust bankable projection.

“No thanks to the many abandoned airport projects by the states that are yet to beg for funding. A case study of the state of Osun”.

Olowo recalled an airline during one of the ASRT breakfast meetings revealed that it had to install a transformer at an airport in order to supply power for airport lighting facilities so as to deliver night flight operation to that airport.

The transformer was reported to have been burgled by miscreants. This was a service that should be provided by the airport company but could not be due to lack of funds

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