President Muhammadu Buhari has directed Senator Hadi Sirika, the Minister of Aviation to fast-track the planned concession of the four major airports in the country.
The President also asked the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning Zainab Ahmed to source funds for the immediate construction of a second runway for the Abuja Airport.
Buhari gave the directive on Tuesday during the commissioning of the new terminal of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos constructed by the China Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCECC).
He also directed the Ministry of Finance to work with the Aviation Ministry in ensuring the delivery of the two projects.
According to him, the concessioning of the four terminals; Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt and Abuja would further propel development to the sector and grow the country’s economy.
The President also lauded the Ministry of Aviation and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) for the completion of the new terminal, stressing that it would further create more jobs for qualified Nigerians, especially the youth.
Beyond that, the President said that the new terminal would create an additional 3,000 direct and indirect jobs, while the sector’s contributions to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would further be enhanced.
“This event showcases our strong commitment to the growth of the Nigerian economy despite the challenge of finance facing the country. The commitment of this administration includes agriculture, aviation and infrastructure development,” he said.
“Our aviation roadmap developed in 2016 has been consistent with infrastructure development. We have designated Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano airports as free trade zone, while we also removed Valued Added Tax (VAT) from air transport.”
In his speech, Sirika said that the commissioning was a testament to the fact that President Buhari meant business for the aviation industry.
Sirika insisted that the aviation industry remained the only way by which the 2063 agenda of the African Union (AU) could be realised.
The minister declared that one of the aims of the Ministry was to grow aviation contributions to the GDP to 5 per cent at $4.7 billion from its present 0.06 per cent in the next few years.
He explained that there would be air-rail connectivity between the domestic and international airports to shorten the traffic time between both terminals.
Besides, Sirika mentioned foreign exchange and Jet A1 as some of the challenges confronting the aviation industry, lamenting that these had led to numerous setbacks for the sector.
He appealed to President Buhari to direct the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to import Jet fuel in good quantity for operators in the industry.
“It is pertinent to mention that we stand to gain significant benefits in restoring and maintaining connectivity within, to and from the country. Analysis from IATA shows that aviation sector provides N341bn GDP contribution, 160,000 local jobs created and N535bn expenditure from visitors will be solely generated from restoring and maintaining this connectivity,” Sirika said.
“Consequently, Sir, these are the numbers at risk if that connectivity is threatened by the continuous travel restrictions due to current pandemic. Mr. President, aviation business suffers from issue of access to foreign exchange by local and foreign airlines and the ability to repatriate blocked funds.
“Nigeria currently holds $283m of foreign airlines funds blocked in the country. I would like to humbly request the support of the Central Bank, through the directive of Mr. President, to prioritise access to forex for all carriers both local and foreign and to work out a mechanism to clear the existing backlog urgently and prevent subsequent build up.”
Also speaking, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Governor of Lagos State lauded Buhari for giving infrastructure priority in its government.
He noted that the three projects commissioned on Tuesday; Fertiliser, Lekki refinery and the new terminal would change the status of the country.
According to him, they would not only create jobs for the teeming populace but will also open up the country for foreign investments and opportunities.
The new Lagos terminal has the capacity to process 14 million passengers per annum and built on a land mass of approximately 56,000 square metres with 66 check-in counters.
Other facilities in the terminal include five baggage collection carousels, 16 Immigration desks at arrival, 28 Immigration desks at departure, eight security screening points, six-passenger boarding bridges (out of which two have already been installed), two food courts, four premium lounges and 22 guest rooms and spa.
Other facilities are 16 airline ticketing offices, visa on arrival and port health facility, as well as praying area, more than 3,000 square metres of duty-free space and approximately 5,000 square metres of lettable utility space.
CCECC had commenced construction of four new terminals at Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt airports in 2013 with the completion period fixed for 20 months.
The Nigerian Government had secured $500 million loan deal from the Exim Bank of China for the projects, while additional counterpart funding of $100 million was added by the Nigerian Government.