Since Nigeria’s independence on October 1, 1960, there are many milestones that have shaped the Nigerian aviation industry.
These milestones have significantly spurred its growth and development, making Nigeria a hub of air travel activities in West Africa.
In this special report, Aviation correspondent Nosa Aituamen takes a look at the benefits of the industry’s deregulation and its challenges.
The story of civil aviation in Nigeria dates back to 1925 when the first aircraft landed on a polo field in Kano State.
Thirty five years later Nigeria gained its independence in 1960.
At independence, the country operated a national carrier called the Nigeria Airways.
The airline was a symbol of national pride supporting economic growth and regional integration, contributing to tourism, trade, and the overall development of the country.
Recognizing the importance of aviation in promoting economic growth and connectivity, the government threw open the door of the industry for individuals to operate alongside the Nigeria Airways.
The policy revolutionized the industry as players as Okada, ADC, Belview, Chanchangi, Kabo airlines came in and that brought about competition, fueled innovation and expanded access to air travel for Nigerians.
Former spokesman Nigeria Airways, Mr. Chris Aligbe said the liberalisation of the airline sector led to job creation, increased passenger volume, opened up more routes and lowered airfares, among others.
“Deregulation is the right policy to have been taken. New airlines entered and some of them very formidable, competition came and so it is the air passengers that benefited from deregulation. It expanded the economic, created new and more jobs for Nigerians”.
Since then, many airlines have come and gone, their lifespan not even up to ten years, a development blamed on lack of good corporate governance as explained by Mr. Sam Adurogboye, former spokesman for the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority NCAA.
“It is capital intensive that is why some, they want to do it the usual way and so they just find out that they were regulated out of the system. You have to tour maintenance, you have to do your insurance and all the rest. You have to pay well. Basically, lack of corporate governance, inappropriate equipment and off course not ready to do the business according to the rules “.
However, airline operators, Mr. Allen Onyema and Captain Ibrahim Mshelia do not agree with Adurogboye’s position.
They listed government policies as responsible for the exit of many Nigerian airlines.
“Ownership structure of the airlines may be blamed maybe about 5%, 95% of the causes of the failures of these airlines in found under government policies. And you blame the airlines for not surviving, it is the government killing the airlines”.
There was also investment in airport infrastructure with the establishment of the Nigerian Airports Authority (NAA) which led to the construction of airports across the nation, including Lagos Airport, which became the country’s major international gateway.
As airlines multiplied so also airports established and operated by both states and the federal government with continuous investments in modernisation, upgrade and expansion of airport facilities across the country.
Director, Commercial and Business Development, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN Mr. Olumuyiwa Femi-Pearse speaks on airport development.
“We are upgrading existing facilities and expanding capacity to accommodate the growing demand for air travel. Projects involving runway expansions, terminal upgrades, and modernization efforts are already underway”.
The Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Mr Festus Keyamo has promised the current administration was ready to help Nigerian airlines and improve on infrastructure.
“I have reviewed the progress made so far vis-a vis the existing gaps. Accordingly, we are already looking at focus areas which are Improvement and Development of Infrastructure for Passenger Convenience, Support for the growth and sustenance of Local Airline Businesses”.
Nigeria’s aviation industry has evolved from a humble beginning to a vibrant and growing sector, with continued improvements in air safety, regulatory oversight and reforms.