Air passenger traffic in Nigeria rose by 12 percent to 8,487,698 as at the end of June, 2019, up from the 7,569,695 recorded in the comparable period of 2018, according to the latest air traffic data released by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
The full year figure for 2019, which is being expected, has been projected to surpass the 16, 371, 674 recorded in 2018 because passenger traffic in the second part of the year is usually higher than the first half due to the yuletide celebrations.
From a peak of 15,335, 772 in 2014, passenger traffic has consistently dropped in 2015, 2016, and 2017.
However, the federal government has in recent times introduced measures to grow the air travel market.
The Director of Consumer Protection, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Mr. Adamu Abdullahi, told THISDAY in Lagos wednesday, that efforts were being made by the federal government to ensure repositioning of the aviation industry to serve the country better and to develop robust, profitable airlines.
“The federal government embarked on the construction of five new terminals at the nation’s five international airports at the cost of $600 million; two have been completed and have started operation; two will start operation early this year and the last one may start operation later in the year.
“Government is rehabilitating the airports; it has also embarked on the training of personnel to enhance passenger facilitation at the airports and it has improved airport facilities, which qualified Abuja and Lagos airports to be certified by NCAA.
“At NCAA, we are encouraging customer-oriented service, which means that the interest of the passenger comes first. This is aimed at encouraging more people to travel,” Abdullahi said.
One of the measures capable of improving air traffic was the introduction of e-visa and visa on arrival to encourage foreign direct investment, increase inbound passenger movement and raise aviation industry contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
In addition, the federal government has also built new terminals in each of the five international airports in the country, installed modern facilities and trained personnel to provide more efficient service at the airports.
THISDAY also learnt that the federal government has started a review of its bilateral air service agreement policies with the aim of creating more opportunities for Nigerian carriers, just as it is reviewing its stand on Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) and is approaching the treaty from the principle of reciprocity in order to protect Nigeria’s market and encourage domestic carriers.
Commenting on ways the federal government could improve passenger traffic, in relation to Nigeria’s population, the Chief Executive Officer of Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi, said: “There won’t be significant change in 2020; there could even be a decrease in capacity because if the capacity will increase, it would have indicated in 2019 by aircraft orders, but there will be passenger traffic growth because the market is growing. “However, the growth will be checked by the low disposable income of many Nigerians.”
There has been progressive increase in passenger traffic in the last 10 years. In 2010, passenger traffic was 13, 939, 418; it increased to 14, 760, 276 in 2011; decreased slightly in 2012 to 14, 113, 276 and rose again in 2013.
In 2014, it marked a high point of 15, 335, 772 and slightly went down to 15, 222, 887 in 2015; affected by the reception in 2016, it went further down to 14, 564, 722; decreased further in 2017 to 13, 394, 945. But in 2018, it rose again to 16, 371, 674.
Industry stakeholders believed that Nigeria’s progress in the aviation industry was still less than what was expected in relation to the country’s population.
The CEO of Aglow Limited, aviation consulting firm, Tayo Ojuri, told THISDAY that there are many factors responsible for the low patronage of air travel in the country.
Ojuri identified of one of major factors as the fluctuation of the nation’s economy and the disposable income of the citizens.
“Before this time, it was taking a while before budget is passed, which used to be done around March to April, but government spending has great influence on the disposable income of the citizens.
“So government disbursement of funds for capital projects puts more money in circulation and empowers the people.
“Then there are socio-political issues, security and perception. It is said that perception is reality. When the Managing Director of Maersk was attacked and his wife killed, two of my clients cancelled their trips to Nigeria. “Then the xenophobia that took place in South Africa and its reaction in Nigeria delayed South Africans from travelling to Nigeria. So it affected movement. “People went to Ghana to hold their meetings. Currently, there is a contraction in the economy; people are not spending,” Ojuri said.
He also noted that family and friends, which refers to social visits have been curbed because of the poor economy, remarking that although people might be discouraged from travelling by road because of insecurity, many of such people might not be inclined to travel by air because of the high cost of airfares.
“What are people coming to do in Nigeria…origin and destination? People come to Nigeria strictly for business. Visa on arrival cannot drive traffic; although it has solved the problem of the delays and frustration in obtaining Nigerian visa from our embassies abroad, facilitation, infrastructure and process at the airports are skewed to inefficiency.
“$90 biometric fee is charged by the Nigerian Immigration Service; this is supposed to be a one-off payment because once you have been captured you don’t need to be recaptured again but that may not be the case here. “Most people that come to the West Coast go to Ghana because Nigeria does not have transit facility at the airports, where you can stay till you connect your next flight,” Ojuri added.