Abuja’s local airport is the most patronised in Nigeria - BUSINESSDAY
MAY 05, 2022
Between 2017 and 2018, the domestic wing of the Muritala Muhammed Airport in Lagos dominated the domestic passenger movements. Specifically, in 2017, 35.5 percent of the domestic air passengers patronised the Lagos airport; 27.2 percent used Abuja, 8.3 percent travelled through Port Harcourt; 4 percent through Owerri, and 3.4 percent through the Kaduna airport. Those were the top five domestic airports in Nigeria as of 2017.
In 2018, Lagos still remained the most patronised, only that Abuja gained more market share. The top five local airports in Nigeria by usage in 2018 were Lagos, 33.2 percent; Abuja, 30.2 percent; Port Harcourt, 8.4 percent; Owerri,4 percent and Kano, 3.2 percent.
However, the trend where Lagos was the most patronised domestic airport changed in 2019 as the local wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport Abuja became the most patronised by local air travellers. In that year, Abuja accounted for 33.5 percent of the domestic passenger movements. Lagos’ Muritala Muhammad Airport accounted for 31.8 percent; 8.6 percent travelled through Port Harcourt; 4 percent through Kano, and 3.2 percent through Sam Mbakwe Airport in Owerri, Imo State.
The positions of the top five domestic airports in Nigeria were no different in 2020, as Abuja still retained the top spot, accounting for 38.6 percent of the domestic travellers. Lagos attracted 34.3 percent while Port Harcourt, Kano and Owerri accounted for 6.6 percent, 4.9 percent, and 4.1 percent respectively.
In 2021, Abuja shed some market share as 36.6 percent of the domestic air travellers patronised it; 31.5 percent through Lagos while 6.9 percent travelled through Port Harcourt. Owerri became the fourth most patronised domestic airport, accounting for 4.5 percent while Kano got 4.2 percent.
Upsurge in the usage of the airport at Owerri was due to the closure of Akanu Ibiam International Airport Enugu in the last quarter of 2019. Surprisingly, after its reopening, traffic at Owerri airport has remained steady. We interpret this to mean that domestic air travellers now find Owerri more attractive and continue to patronise it. Owerri airport also serves as a stopover for most of the flights to the south-south geopolitical zone.
Few airports stand out with over 100% growth in passenger traffic
Domestic passenger traffic at the Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua Airport in Katsina State grew by 249.9 percent, the highest in the country in 2021. The improvement seen in the usage of this airport may not be unconnected with the rising insecurity in that region. Political patronage is another reason because it is the home of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Traffic at the Akure airport rose by 240.41 percent, and this is partly explained by the investment drive of the Ondo State Government which commissioned a number of new businesses in the state in 2020/2021. Undoubtedly, it is one of the leading cocoa producing states in Nigeria, and consequently, investment inflows into cocoa farming and chocolate production have put the state on the global chocolate producing chart. All other things being equal, chocolate produced in the Sunshine state will hit the European market by July.
International passenger movements
Seven international airports in Nigeria were involved in the international operations in 2021. These are the Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano, Enugu, Maiduguri and Katsina international airports.
Year on year, international passenger traffic rose by 57.6 percent in 2021. The Muritala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos State took the lead by having 72 percent of the foreign passengers’ traffic, 25 percent through Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja just as 2 percent and 1 percent travelled through Kano and Port Harcourt airports respectively.
The growth in foreign passenger movements in 2021 still fell short of the pre-pandemic period. Put differently, 1,109,621 arrivals were recorded as against 1,109,525 departures in 2021. In 2019, Nigeria recorded 4.6 million foreign passengers, implying that the patronage in 2021 was 51.9 percent lower compared with the level of patronage in 2019.
In Lagos, 1.595 million international travellers patronised the Muritala Muhammed International Airport in 2021, comprising 787,874 arrivals and 807,648 departures, which means more air passengers left the country through the Lagos airport than arrived here
The reverse was the case in Abuja, Port Harcourt, Enugu, and Kano, each of which recorded more arrivals than departures. Only one passenger left and arrived through Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua International Airport in Katsina.
Lagos, Abuja dominance mirrors investment inflows into Nigeria
On the average, 96 percent of foreign air travellers patronised both the Muritala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
This pattern is not going to change anytime soon. One of the reasons for this postulation is that the dominance of the two international airports in terms of patronage reflects the destination of foreign investments inflows into the country.
Nigeria recorded $23.99 billion worth of capital importation in 2019. In terms of destinations, Lagos State, Nigeria’s commercial capital, attracted $17.67 billion or 73.7 percent of the total capital importation in 2019. It also received 85.8 percent of the $9.66 billion capital importation in 2020, as well as 86.9 percent or $6.7 billion of capital importation in 2021.
Abuja received 25.9 percent of the capital importation in 2019; 13.2 percent in 2020, and 12.4 percent in 2021. As the two most important centres in Nigeria, this trend will remain for the foreseeable future. Consequently, foreign passengers will continue to patronise the international airports in those cities.
Lagos, Abuja are major hubs for Nollywood production
Another important factor is that Lagos and Abuja are the major hubs for Nollywood movie production in Nigeria. 65.3 percent of movies produced in the first half of 2021 took place in both Lagos and Abuja.