Construction of agro-cargo airports by Nigerian states is misplaced priority – Finchglow GMD
- Agro-cargo airports are being constructed by State governments in Nigeria, but some experts believe that this is a misplacement of priorities since important basic amenities are lacking in the region.
- At present, 15 State governors in Nigeria are focusing their energies on the construction of agro-cargo airports in the country, which they claim will create more employment opportunities and increase their Internally Generated Revenues (IGRs).
- Though some stakeholders believe agro-cargo airports could transform the aviation sector into a major revenue earner, many of these airports are not strategically located, making it difficult to attract investors and businesspersons to them.
The recent increase in the construction of agro-cargo airports by State governments across the country has been described as a misplacement of priorities.
The Group Managing Director of Finchglow Travels, Mr Bankole Bernard, stated this during an interview with Nairametrics in Lagos. He wondered why most State governors would opt for agro-cargo airports when the interstate roads that lead to the airports are not roadworthy and important basic amenities are not provided to the citizens.
Bernard insisted most of the cargo airports embarked upon by the governments are not sustainable and feared that the airports may become a liability to the government in the future. He said:
- “To me, this is another misplacement of priority. Agro-cargo airport is a capital project. It is easier to make money and name when you embark on a capital project. None of them wants to come in and continue on any legacy project not completed by their predecessors because the people will ask you ‘what did you do?’
- “However, there is nothing actually wrong if they get their priority right. You cannot be in a state where all the interstate roads are bad and agro is the priority. You cannot be in a state where all the schools are mushrooms and teachers’ salaries are not being paid. Then, agro is what is important to you.
- “Can we get our priority right? The government needs to get their priorities right. The concept is a beautiful one, but it is about setting priority right.”
Why the scamper for agro-cargo airports?
At present, no fewer than 15 State governors in Nigeria are focusing their energies on the construction of agro-cargo airports in the country.
Among the states are Ondo (Akure), Rivers State (Calabar), Kwara (Ilorin), Taraba (Jalingo), Plateau (Jos), Kano, Benue (Dauda), Niger (Minna), Imo (Owerri), Anambra (Umuleri), Akwa Ibom (Uyo) and Ogun (Remo).
Some of the state governments claimed that the construction of the cargo airports would ensure easy, seamless exportation and importation of agricultural produce, create more employment opportunities for teeming youth and qualified personnel and ensure an increase in their Internally Generated Revenues (IGRs).
Why experts have an issue with these agro-cargo airports
Though, some stakeholders in the aviation industry in Nigeria said if well-executed, the emergence of agro-cargo airports in the country would transform the aviation sector into a major revenue earner for the country.
But, they regretted that most of the airports are not strategically located to attract investors and businesspersons to them as access to these airports is cumbersome and discouraging especially to investors.
On the trapped funds of foreign airlines in Nigeria, Bernard described the situation as pathetic, saying that the Federal Government failed to abide by the Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASA) arrangements it entered with the carriers.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said last week put the trapped funds at $744 million as of February 2023.
According to Bernard, the inability of the foreign airlines to repatriate their funds would negatively affect the image of Nigeria in the comity of nations and appealed to the government to address the issue before some of the other airlines suspend flight services to Nigeria.
- “If you say that you do not have funds for them at an official rate as it were if you are going to make them pay for a premium, they will sell the ticket at a premium and they will be able to repatriate their funds, but you don’t give them at the official rate and they are unable to repatriate their money. That is wrong and that is being fraudulent as a nation and it is not good for our image.
- “Today, the rate at which we are issuing tickets is N551 to a dollar. Is that the official rate? No, but that is the rate we are issuing tickets, which is moving closer to the black market. This means the issue of trapped funds would not have been if it had been properly managed,” he added.