Posted on March 19, 2018
The Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Mr. Saleh Dunoma, in this interview with journalists, says airports across Africa are being transformed into sustainable business entities and Nigeria should not be left behind. MAUREEN IHUA-MADUENYI reports
Over the years, Africa has been like a footnote in terms of airport ratings, management and safety. What is your view on the evaluation of Africa’s and Nigeria’s airports?
The people that rate the airports are the professional bodies, either the Civil Aviation Authority of the country, the Airports Council International experts or the International Civil Aviation Organisation. These are the people that have the tools to rate the airports. I have seen other people rating airports but I don’t consider that kind of rating professional because you go there, look at an airport and make comments and you say you are rating airports.
There are standard tools through which the ICAO, ACI and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority rate the airports. NCAA visits the airports every day and come up with ratings. These agencies are specialised.
They have experts in safety, fire, rescue, security, facilitation and aerodrome standards. They will go to the airport and look at it. These experts look at specific things and come back with ratings. After these, they will tell you if it is below standard and what needs to be improved upon.
Even the implementation of the plans is done under safety standards. For example, the Airport Excellence and Safety that we did in Abuja and Lagos; experts came from various countries and they looked at the airports.
These were experts in aerodrome and other specialisations. These are people that are qualified and have certificate. They will come to the airport and we allow them access to everywhere and they will access and see the areas that are lagging.
They will look to see if what is on ground tallies with things that are in the books. They tell you areas you need to improve on. They will tell you if the airport is okay in terms of safety, security and aerodrome standards amongst others. They come back with corrective action plan and they will be told what they will do about it and during what time frame.
If they are things that cannot be done, then aeronautical study needs to be carried out to say these are the procedures to go around the issue. There are no differences in the ratings and the assessments; whether it is done it is done in Maiduguri, New York or anywhere else. It is the same people and they will do it.
The good thing is that airports are categorised and within your category, you will be assessed based on that. If you say your critical aircraft is 747, then we will assess you based on that critical aircraft and that standard. Do you have enough manpower to handle 747? Do you have enough runways? Do you have enough parking space? Are the signs okay? Can the pilot see them? So these are the assessments of an airport.
There are a lot of work going on and a need to develop a business case. We have consultants that are working. What they need to do is to look at the current situation; what do we have? How do we do it? There is a lot of documentation going on at the moment and the consultants are working. When they finish the development of business case and then come up with the entire documentation that is needed, then we can now present it to investors.
The issuance of visa on arrival especially to foreign investors started recently. How has this helped facilitate the ease of doing business?
Visa on arrival is on the increase in Nigeria. The whole thing is to make travel and business easy. So, if I don’t have to apply for visa and go for visa interview in a country and I know that if I come to Nigeria I get visa, it makes life easy. A lot of people are encouraged to travel.
So, they send an application online and by the time they arrive here, they just submit their passports and they are issued visa. This will encourage people because it makes life and travel easy. All you need to do is to send your applications and if you fill the forms online. By the time you arrive at the airport, it takes a few minutes to get the visa. This encourages people to travel. That is why the number of visa on arrival is on the increase.
Before the introduction of visa on arrival, in some countries where we don’t have embassy, it makes life difficult for people to travel. It will continue to increase. There was a time the Canadian government removed their embassy from Nigeria; so we had to go to Ghana to get visa. If there was visa on arrival, why do I need to spend a night in Accra just to get visa? With visa on arrival, you send your application; once you get approval, you travel.
FAAN is billed to host the ACI conference. What are the major issues that will be discussed?
The theme is ‘Business transformation for sustainable development of African airports.’ What we want to do is to look at how we can make our airports commercially viable in order to sustain our operations.
Before this time, you will recall that most African airports were developed by government and they were not commercial. Even in Nigeria, until recently, we collect subvention from government to run the airports but from the evolution of airport management, what is happening all over, airports are self-funded.
ACI is looking at how to assist airports to sustain businesses in order to make sure they pay for their cost of running. So, we will talk to experts on what are the best practices or what we need to do in order to make our airports self-sustaining.
What specific benefits do you think Nigeria will get from this conference in terms of security and safety of the nation’s airports?
This conference is going to bring experts from all over the world and they are going to participate. They will deliver one lecture or the other. They will participate in discussions. There will be meetings; there will be one-on-one interactions. All these arrangements are being made.
The entire conference offers these opportunities. The advantage to Nigeria is that we can go there in numbers. All the operators in Nigeria are invited. They can come and listen to these experts and take home what they want to take home.
The other thing is that once the conference starts, it is business throughout. Exhibitors will be there. So anyone that has a particular interest will now look at the programme and choose which one to key into and take advantage of it.
Manufacturers will be there; they will come and exhibit their products. There will be other issues on security and safety. Usually, the emphases are on safety and security but this time round, we will divert a little bit to commercial – the sustainability of business in African airports. We will make sure experts talk to us in this field. There will still be a lot of safety and security issues that will be discussed in the conference.
What are the implementation plans for some of the issues that will be raised?
In ACI, what we do is to develop programmes. Every conference that we do, there is a programme that comes out of it. This is why we have airport excellence in safety and it is a programme. So you key into it; you send the experts there and they go and help you check how safe your airport is and how safe your operations are and they give you a document.
The document they gave us on Murtala Muhammed Airport is over 100 pages and you have to implement that. APEX in security was approved in Mauritius last conference. Nigeria was the first country to key into Apex in security.
What I expect in this conference is that at the end of it, we will come up with something on commercial. Then they will recommend a best practice and any airport that has not reached this level can key into this.
Experts will come and they will look at it and tell you what you are not doing right and correct them. It is not a kind of conference that you will come and people deliver lectures and everyone work away. We will develop a programme out of each conference. Even the Apex in security that is already running, we have continued to develop it.
During the conference, people will come with new ideas and we adopt. So, we will develop programmes during the conference and implement them. Experts key into them and we will send the experts to the airport and they will send the experts to the airport to assist these airports to bring their levels up.