The federal government has acted enough airport drama since this August. It has been ambiguities about the aviation sector.
But it peaked with the news that there are two airports in the offing in Yobe State. Yes, Yobe, the northeast semi-desert state that has the least economic ranking of the 36 states of Nigeria. That same state that has lived under the trouble of Boko Haram is going to have two airports soon.
There were 22 airports in Nigeria in Nigeria before the latest in Anambra and Yenagoa and from Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) sources, managers of the airports, 18 are classified as economically non-viable
Between 2014 and 2019, the airports remitted a total of $23.19m to the federal government as against a projected or targeted revenue of $194.55m by the FAAN. That is a paltry 12% economic returns.
The only four of the airports that make enough revenue to barely cover for their costs are Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano. This data was taken in 2020 when the Enugu airport was shut down for repairs.
With these figures and few facts, the economic truth is that airports in Nigeria are not profitable business ventures.
However, the government of Yobe State on May announced that it had expended N18b in five years struggling to build and put into use what it calls the Yobe International Cargo Airport in the state. A poor Yobe State had been sinking huge money into building an airport that already has no economic gains to yield for it.
On August 12, while the Minister for Aviation, Hadi Sirika had a virtual meeting with aviation workers to allay their fears on the plan to concession the Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja and Kano airports, he had revealed that the government will “concession them in a manner that would modernise the airports and have them operated to create more jobs as well as generate more revenue for the country.” This statement confirms that the airports have been barely surviving and the major reason to concession them is to make them profitable.
Already, there are so many airports in existence in Nigeria just on the list as you can never hear at the airport any flights announced to or from them.
While convincing Nigerians that the airports would be concessioned because of non-profitability, the same minister on August 18 announced that it has budgeted N6.3b to start the construction of a brand new Wachakal Airport in Yobe State, when that by the state government is still under construction.
You and I may ask, what is that fertile business attraction in Yobe, the poorest Nigeria state per GDP to merit two airports when Lagos has one?
In addition to the construction cost, Sirika added that “post-construction services for the same airport will take N219.8 million.
Maybe just because the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and the Inspector General of Police are from Yobe State, the federal government that is borrowing to pick its basic bills must flush priority down the drain to allocate an airport to their state as economic waste.
It is an absolute economic waste to sink N6.5b in building an airport in Yobe when those in Maiduguri, Bauchi and the rest 16 have been a burden to the same government to maintain.
Nigeria has battled recession since 2016 and the best the government would do is borrow money and channel it towards building a new airport in Yobe where the state is already building one just to lengthen the number of airport we have.
If this project holds means the government of Nigeria is the most wasteful anywhere, where people borrow or labour to make money and throw away.
This project must be canceled if we deem ourselves good resources managers when in that same Yobe, we cannot boast of any viable health facility or other modern requirements for growth.