By Chinelo Obogo [email protected] 07064781119
The Managing Director of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Captain Rabiu Yadudu, has revealed that the agency has achieved much of the desired increment in revenue after it increased the Passenger Service Charge (PSC) by 100 per cent.
Speaking with journalists at the agency’s headquarters in Lagos, he said: “We have set in motion, processes that would aid the recovery of the aviation sector. We operate, maintain and manage these airports, we pay our wages and the expected improvement in revenue has been achieved. The only drawback is that we have achieved it on the 25-30 per cent operations we are having now due to the COVID19 pandemic. Without this pandemic, it would have been 100 per cent improvement but it is better than if we had to recover on the old formula of the N1000.”
The aviation industry was devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic and was very distressing on our finances. It impacted on almost all aspect of aviation. The recovery will take a long time to fully be achieved, but from the beginning when you have a pandemic, it is a force majore, when you are in a bad situation like that, there is pretty much nothing you can do to stop it alone because you are operating within a system. The aviation industry has many components and the airport is just one of those components; so when the entire component is affected by one thing, it means that the only thing we can do is to try to minimise the effect of the pandemic by strategic implementation of a lot of innovative ideas to make sure that while the pandemic is going on, you minimise the effect. When it goes finaaly, you know that you have strategically positioned yourself to be at a higher pedestal which you wouldn’t have been if you had not implemented all those strategies.
So we concentrated on implementing strategies that will assist us to minimise the effects during the pandemic and to make us come out much better and we achieved a lot of these through the constitution of important committees to assist us in streamlining our operations. Committees to assist us to be more efficient in our revenue generation and collections, A committee that assist us to enforce the COVID-19 protocols because they are on ground and in our operations, we are responsible for almost everything that happens at the airports. So, we set up committees to assist in implementing and enforcing all these protocols because if they are not implemented the way we meant them to be, and enforced, the natural effects would be that there will be a lot of compromises at the airports, our people will not be safe and we cannot tolerate that because the people are our primary assets and of course our various stakeholders will be affected, primarily passengers and will undermine confidence in the aviation industry. Confidence is key and without confidence there will be no aviation, so we wanted people to feel that when you get to the airport, you are not compromised, you are safe and protected and so far nobody is worried to go to any Nigeria airport you will notice the believe people have in the system because they felt there is no any sort of compromise.
In aviation, we like to keep it simple. We are not a health agency, so we know that there is a pandemic. This new strain is just another variant of the coronavirus, so we try to maintain and enforce our protocols and we monitor all the relevant sources of information within the country such as the NCDC, PTF on COVID 19 and also monitor international information and guidance from relevant agencies like ICAO, ACI so that at the end of the day we are sure that we implement the local ones and the international ones. If there is any need for enhancement of our protocols, these are the sources of information that guides decision making processes. Unless there is any information that is official that warrant us to do certain things differently, we avoid jumping into conclusion without proper guidance. The protocols are there and what we do is to improve on them as time and circumstances demand and according to information from the relevant sources I mentioned earlier.
At the beginning, there was a bit of neglect but our attention was drawn to it around May last year and we promptly implemented the same protocols at the cargo terminals but of course there are deviations and variation because of the nature of businesses there. If you to any cargo terminal you will discover they are pretty much covered the same way as the passengers terminals are, especially now that the cargo operations is seeming to be much more significant in our operations. The cargo business wasn’t affected much by the pandemic if not for the national lockdown because they don’t carry passengers, so their vulnerability is not as much as passenger operations. That was I felt we can just like airlines are doing across the world by strategising and incorporating more of cargo businesses into their operations. Also, we are strategically working to ensure we improve our capacity and re-orient our business to make sure that the cargo aspect is enhanced. We are working to ensure it improves constantly because it is one aspect of operations that was not greatly impacted by the covid-19 and what more, during the lockdown, most of our flights came through the cargo terminals. A lot of medical supplies, equipment and evacuations came through cargo operations. Now we need the cargo even much more that before.
It is part of the nature of our operations, in airport operations every time you are bound to have challenges, those that you expect and those that suddenly come up without warning. We came to know about the obstructions years ago and we are working with the owners of the businesses to relocate them. We have already identified locations and we are working to arrive at a formula that will be guide us to achieve the relocation, one that is acceptable to both parties.
We have already devised a way to operate in the new terminal even while they are there. You can see there is the boarding side which has left and right sections, I think we can we can still use one side while the other side is under construction as the terminal hangers are being relocated. In Abuja we started that way; we are using the left side over there. So, I think even in Lagos, we can replicate same as we still about four passenger boarding bridges on the left side. And if we have even an emergency, not even an emergency, nothing stops you from doing remote passengers boarding.
If you go to Ethiopia, they have the largest airline in Africa but most of boarding when you transit through Addis is by remote boarding. So if we have four boarding bridges on the left in Lagos and we really need to operate more, we can do remote parking. Passengers will go down, join their buses and go and board their flights pending when we achieve the relocation of the two hangers on the right side. Technically now we are in a position that we can commission the terminal, once it is ready, we commence operations in phases on the left side and make the possibility of remote parking. It is generally looking good but we preferred if they didn’t go through these problems but now that it is here, we are making a lot of progress in addressing them.
We already have a plan and the Minister of Aviation is working to ensure we achieve the reconstruction and rehabilitation of that terminal. We need to reconstruct, refurbish or rehabilitate the old terminal because it is really outdated. We need to find a way to modernise it because if you look at airport designs in the 70s, it was very much different from the way it is now. So, that is why I said maybe we reconstruct or redesign the terminal as much as possible. The good thing is that few years ago, JB already submitted a proposal; we are comparing that proposal with other possibilities. The proposal for the reconstruction was already submitted last year and it is receiving attention from the government.
That is a an important consideration for us to have a hub to operate efficiently. You need connectivity and we already have a committee for this, and part of the success of that committee is that we have a linkage between the old and the new terminal which was completed last week. It is not commissioned because the terminal itself is not yet commissioned. We have a proper linkage now between the old and the new one. Also, talking about connectivity between the international and with the domestic; we are working with government on that and we have designs for the most suitable ways to achieve the connectivity and there is even a light rail proposal. But right now, we are at the development and planning stage. We have the proposals already, on Monday we even had a meeting with some of the companies bringing proposals, these are concepts that we’ll study and decide which the best by our team is. We have connected the two internationals, now we want to focus on how to seamlessly connect them with the domestic terminals.
All things being equal, we expect to have Kano commissioned before the 20th of this month, including Port Harcourt and Enugu. All the three remaining internationals, we are working to commission them before the 20th. That is our plan because we need the businesses but of course our operations are pretty much going on but the numbers are down as we are doing only about 30-35 percent but when we open more, it will be better and better service for our people, and for us at FAAN it will mean more businesses and our stakeholders.
We are utilising the funds pretty much the same we have been utilising them. We operate, maintain and manage these airports, we pay our wages and the expected improvement in revenue has been achieved. The only drawback is that we have achieved it on the 25-30 percent operations we are having now due to the COVID19 pandemic. Without this pandemic, it would have been 100% improvement. We are doing 25-30 percent and achieving the desired benefit on the much reduced percentage but it is better than if we had to recover on the old formula of the N1000. This is part of why we decided to re-strategise to work together to ensure that we come out of it at a higher revenue potential and this is one of it.
We are already working in that direction. We went fast thinking even before the advent of the COVID-19 because years ago we started working to see what we can do to improve it. It is one thing to know and identify a problem and start working to resolve it but seeing noticeable result do take some time, especially as some aspect of the non-aeronautical don’t seems to have a lot of traction in West Africa. If you look at the airport companies outside Africa, most of the non-aeronautical comes through retails, shopping and then most importantly parking. But cultural issues made the parking not that recoverable because we don’t have the culture of coming into the airports and parking your car for one week, one month until you return. Our tendency here is that you come with your family members to drop you and then return with the car, so it will take a lot more time for us to start achieving much in terms of parking, but we are working and improving our car parks.
Investigation is going on and at one time we handed over to the NCAA. So many we do at the airport we do follow procedures. What we do is we detect and after doing our own internal investigation, we hand over to NCAA to conclude. Similarly even if it is other crimes that are even much more serious, because this is a violation, we could arrest, document and hand over to the police or EFCC as the case may be. If it is relevant financial violations or crime, we have government agencies within the airports that are appropriately empowered to proceed from where we leave because we don’t operate beyond the confines of the airport environment. In this instance, the cases are with the NCAA.
They should expect much better services in terms of safety, security and efficiencies of our operations. Last year it was very demanding but we are grateful to all our staff, stakeholders and passengers themselves because there was over 90% compliance to all the safety protocols and processes we put in place. We received letters of commendations and reactions on the social media expressing positive views on how we did very well in our activities and the cooperation was exemplary. We use this opportunity to call on our stakeholders to please maintain the same amount of commitment and dedications to ensuring that our protocols laid down to protect everyone against the covid-19 is observed, protected so that the aim is achieved.