Dunoma: Con­ces­sion of Air­ports Will Cre­ate More Jobs

The Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Fed­eral Air­ports Au­thor­ity of Nige­ria, Saleh Dunoma, in this ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with Chinedu Eze, be­lieves that if the na­tion’s air­ports are con­ces­sioned, it will at­tract pri­vate sec­tor in­vest­ment, bring about in­fra­struc­ture de­velo


With the two ter­mi­nals at the Port Har­court and Abuja air­ports al­ready com­mis­sioned, has the Fed­eral Air­ports Au­thor­ity of Nige­ria (FAAN) started pro­cess­ing pas­sen­gers through the fa­cil­i­ties?

We have started us­ing the new ter­mi­nal at the Nnamdi Azikiwe In­ter­na­tional Air­port, Abuja, but we have not started pro­cess­ing pas­sen­gers from the new ter­mi­nal in Port Har­court be­cause there are only two air­lines in Port Har­court. One of them Air France said that they want to stop their op­er­a­tion to Port Har­court; I think be­cause of pas­sen­ger level. How­ever, they have not told us the rea­son. But what­ever rea­son they have must have to do with their in­ter­na­tional op­er­a­tions. You know ev­ery year air­lines re­view their plan for the year and they ad­just their sched­ules and so on. So in this ad­just­ment they in­di­cated that they may not con­tinue with Port Har­court. Lufthansa is also op­er­at­ing from Port Har­court. We are pre­par­ing for them to move in but we had a lit­tle chal­lenge and that chal­lenge has to do with the push pack sys­tem, which the Nige­ria Avi­a­tion Han­dling Com­pany (NAHCO) Plc is sup­posed to pro­vide but they have got­ten one now. As of the last meet­ing that we held last Sun­day (Jan­uary 5, 2019) with them, they told us that they have taken one from Abuja to Port Har­court. So as soon as that is done and tested then Lufthansa will move in.

Are you aware of any other in­ter­na­tional air­line des­ig­nated for Port Har­court?

I know there are lo­ca­tions in the Min­istry of Trans­porta­tion for air­lines that want to ei­ther in­crease their fre­quency into Nige­ria or want­ing to come into Nige­ria. But I can’t say ex­actly whether they have in­di­cated in­ter­est in go­ing into Port Har­court. But what I can quickly add is that I know that with that fa­cil­ity there it will at­tract some air­lines to want to go into Port Har­court.

What is the state of the new ter­mi­nals in Kano, La­gos and Enugu?

All of them are at ad­vanced stage of com­ple­tion. We are pray­ing that some­time this year, maybe all of them will be com­mis­sioned. You know that there are two parts to this project, the phase one and the phase two. Gov­ern­ment ap­proved the phase two, with that ap­proval we are push­ing the con­trac­tors to make sure they com­plete within the short­est pos­si­ble time. The is­sue with La­gos is that, you know La­gos is a well-de­vel­oped air­port; we need to re­lo­cate some fa­cil­i­ties in order to get suf­fi­cient ma­noeu­vring fa­cil­ity for the air­lines. So that is the is­sue that we have in La­gos which we are tack­ling now. Kano is slightly away from the main area of ac­tiv­ity so we need to de­velop the apron and of course the taxi way into that place. These are some of the things that are in phase two but work has al­ready started on the phase two so we are just push­ing the con­trac­tors.

There are hints that the Chi­nese that built the air­port ter­mi­nals would op­er­ate them un­til they re­coup the money they spent on them. Is that true?

There is noth­ing like the Chi­nese will run it. They gave us a loan to con­struct the ter­mi­nals and we are sup­posed to pay back this loan. So ar­range­ments are made in the agree­ment we signed that as soon as the build­ings are put into op­er­a­tion they will give us a ges­ta­tion pe­riod and then from there we will start pay­ing back the loan. So we are mak­ing ar­range­ments to start pay­ments as soon as the ges­ta­tion pe­riod is over. They are not go­ing to run the ter­mi­nals, what we want to do with them is as usual, if you pro­vide an in­fra­struc­ture, there is a de­fect li­a­bil­ity pe­riod which is about one year. So, they will help us train our en­gi­neers and main­tain the fa­cil­ity for one year un­til the de­fect li­a­bil­ity pe­riod is over. So they have to be around un­til our peo­ple get used to these fa­cil­i­ties as quickly as pos­si­ble. We have started the train­ing even be­fore the com­mis­sion­ing of the build­ing, but this is purely tech­ni­cal area. Their en­gi­neers and tech­ni­cians will re­main with our tech­ni­cians and en­gi­neers over this pe­riod of de­fect li­a­bil­ity pe­riod so that af­ter that, they will have their hands off. So the Chi­nese is not go­ing to run the ter­mi­nals, we have started in Abuja and you can see that our peo­ple are run­ning it.

There were tech­ni­cal de­fects with the ter­mi­nals in La­gos and Abuja, which de­manded that the con­trol tower would be re­lo­cated be­fore the de­fects are cor­rected. Has FAAN find a way round that chal­lenge?

Be­cause of the mas­sive con­struc­tion go­ing on at the La­gos air­port, the present tower can­not see one side of the ter­mi­nal build­ing. To solve this prob­lem, the Nige­rian Airspace Man­age­ment Agency (NAMA) has pro­vided an­other mo­bile tower to look at the other side of the build­ing; this is the so­lu­tion that we have. But it is our be­lief that prob­a­bly in the new in­fra­struc­ture devel­op­ment that is com­ing; there will be ad­di­tional run­way for Abuja air­port and other in­fra­struc­ture, which will in­clude a new fire sta­tion and a new con­trol tower that will be strate­gi­cally lo­cated to cover the air­port, as re­quired by the Nige­rian Civil Avi­a­tion Au­thor­ity (NCAA) and the In­ter­na­tional Civil Avi­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion (ICAO).

This means that the con­trol tower that would be built should be able to see all the ter­mi­nal build­ings and see the four ends of the run­ways. Each run­way has two ends, the con­trol tower should be able to see as the air­craft will land and take off on both sides of the run­way. It should be able to see what is hap­pen­ing on the aprons of the ter­mi­nal build­ings. So we need to choose an­other lo­ca­tion to strate­gi­cally pro­vide that. The fire sta­tion’s ma­jor re­quire­ment is that they should be strate­gi­cally lo­cated. If there is any in­ci­dent any­where in the air­port, in the short­est dis­tance they can reach there. The ex­ist­ing con­trol tower was built for one run­way. The next one that would be built would cover the two run­ways and all sides of the air­port.

So we are in­cor­po­rat­ing it in the de­sign of the new run­way so that these two fa­cil­i­ties will be strate­gi­cally lo­cated.

What is the time line for the new run­way at Abuja air­port?

We want to do it as quickly as pos­si­ble but we don’t have time line be­cause right now we are do­ing con­sul­tancy. It is when the con­sul­tants fin­ish their de­sign and give us the en­tire work­ing draw­ings and all the de­tails and then the con­sul­tant now will come up with time line. They can tell that this project can be com­pleted ei­ther in 24 months or less. But it is our be­lief that it will not ex­ceed 24 months.

If the run­way were built the first time it was planned in 2010, what do you think Nige­ria could have gained and what do you think FAAN has lost in not build­ing the fa­cil­ity at that time?

We have lost a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties. If we had built it at that time all these crises that we had in Abuja, clos­ing the run­way and all the at­ten­dant in­con­ve­niences and so on, we would have averted it that is num­ber one. Num­ber two; of course time value of money. At that time, dol­lar was cost­ing N100 to a dol­lar, to­day it is N320. So you can imag­ine the ef­fect on items that we need to im­port, air­port equip­ment that we need to bring from out­side. You can see that if you con­vert that amount in dol­lar that we would have spent that time and the amount of dol­lar we would have spent now and con­verted it to naira; you will see the dif­fer­ence is huge. So we would have saved that cost. Not only that, but also the op­por­tu­nity we would have used to in­crease our ca­pac­ity and we would have ben­e­fited from that ca­pac­ity.

You have been here for some time and we know that the dif­fer­ence in the fig­ure of pas­sen­ger move­ment year to year is not sig­nif­i­cant. So look­ing at the way the econ­omy is mov­ing and Nige­ria’s pop­u­la­tion, what is your pro­jec­tion on the in­crease in pas­sen­ger move­ment, es­pe­cially at the ma­jor air­ports?

Well, pas­sen­ger move­ment will con­tinue to in­crease and this is even but­tressed by ICAO and IATA pre­dic­tions. It is pre­dicted that in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries pas­sen­ger move­ment would dou­ble by 2030. In Africa, we be­lieve that it will more than dou­ble for the sim­ple rea­son that we have not de­vel­oped other in­fra­struc­ture like the train and the road in­fra­struc­ture is not there. So a lot of peo­ple are go­ing to de­pend on air travel be­cause it is eas­ier and faster. So we be­lieve that in Africa pas­sen­ger move­ment will be more than dou­ble by 2030. So that is why we are strate­gi­cally de­vel­op­ing the air­port in­fra­struc­ture in order to meet up with the de­mand that is com­ing. I know the in­dus­try is very sen­si­tive, some time there is a drop but within a short pe­riod of time you will see that it will go up again. But if you look at the over­all trend, pas­sen­ger move­ment and air­craft move­ment are on the in­crease al­ways.

You no­ticed that MMA2 is at­tract­ing air­lines. Air Peace has gone there, Arik has been there, do you have any plan to re­struc­ture or ex­pand the Gen­eral Avi­a­tion Ter­mi­nal (GAT) (MMA1) fa­cil­ity, es­pe­cially the bag move­ment area?

Just like we are plan­ning on fin­ish­ing the ter­mi­nal build­ing in La­gos to have ad­di­tional ca­pac­ity, we are also plan­ning to ex­pand the apron at the GAT, and at the in­ter­na­tional ter­mi­nal. This is be­cause this is the only thing that is lack­ing. We have two run­ways, we are also work­ing on the in­stal­la­tion of run­way lights to make sure that all the re­quired fa­cil­i­ties will be there so that there will be both day and night land­ings on the two run­ways in La­gos. That is num­ber one. Num­ber two, we are also plan­ning to im­prove on the aprons both at in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic in order to in­crease our ca­pac­ity in park­ing. So all these are pro­grammes that if we do it, it will meet up with the re­quire­ment of the air­lines.

Lack of air­field light­ing at some air­ports is ad­versely af­fect­ing air­line op­er­a­tions in Nige­ria. Air­lines are forced to de­lay flights at the air­ports that al­low night land­ing and ser­vice those air­ports that close by 6:00 pm, thereby de­lay­ing their flights. Is it pos­si­ble for you to have an ar­range­ment with in­vestors to build those air­field lights at the run­ways?

There is no air­port that doesn’t have air­field light­ing ex­cept Enugu. Enugu is un­der con­struc­tion. The project in Enugu is not yet fin­ished and we are still plan­ning to fin­ish it. The prob­lem with Enugu is land; we need Enugu state gov­ern­ment to help us ac­quire more land so that we can do the in­stal­la­tions. But all our air­ports have air­field light­ing. What is hap­pen­ing is this, if you have an air­port, let’s say Yola air­port and you say Yola air­port is 24 hours, Maiduguri is 24 hours, Katsina is 24 hours and put then all on 24 hours, the cost to FAAN is huge. So what we do is to limit the hours of op­er­a­tion be­cause if you look at them, most of them have only one or two flights a day.

And these flights do not go be­yond 6 pm, so we op­er­ate them 18 hours in­stead of 24 hours. So that from mid night or from 6:00 pm or 8:00 pm in the evening de­pend­ing on the pro­gramme that they have we shut down the air­port. So that we can now con­serve money that is spent on the air­field op­er­a­tion sys­tems with­out get­ting any flights into them. But on re­quest if you want to go to any of these air­ports that have air­field light­ing that have short hours of op­er­a­tion we can ex­tend but you pay. But if the traf­fic im­proves of course why not, we can open it up to 24 hours. But all air­ports are ini­tially de­signed with air­field light­ing sys­tem.

Lest go back to Bi-Court­ney, you know the in­tractable face-off be­tween FAAN and Bi-Court­ney, do you think there can be an am­i­ca­ble res­o­lu­tion?

We can re­solve this is­sue out of court. What is the in­ter­est of FAAN and what is the in­ter­est of gov­ern­ment? The in­ter­est of FAAN and gov­ern­ment by and large is to make sure we pro­vide ser­vice to Nige­ri­ans. He is run­ning a fa­cil­ity that is re­quired to pro­vide ser­vice. Of course there are com­mer­cial is­sues be­tween us and them, pro­vided we sit down and agree that you pro­vide this ser­vice and then ful­fil all the com­mer­cial is­sues, we can re­solve it am­i­ca­bly. But he is al­ready in court, so we al­low the court case to run. There is noth­ing any­body can do but if both of us opt to­day and we agree to get out of court and set­tle of course we will sit down and talk. Be­cause the in­ter­est is not for us to be in court, the in­ter­est is for us to come down, work to­gether so that we have a win, win sit­u­a­tion by pro­vid­ing good ser­vice to Nige­ri­ans.

You have been the Pres­i­dent of Air­port Coun­cil In­ter­na­tional (ACI) Africa, what do you think Nige­ria has ben­e­fit­ted from that your po­si­tion?

There are lots of ben­e­fits. First of all, at the be­gin­ning, the first thing Nige­ria gained was to have the first Nige­rian to be the pres­i­dent of ACI. From there we got very close to the pro­grammes


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