National carrier: Investors shop for $250m - THE NATION
Private investors are expected to raise $250 million to begin a new national carrier, Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika has said.
In a document detailing the status of Aviation Road Map, made available to reporters, the minister said the project development phase has been completed with the development of the Outline Business Case (OBC) and subsequent issuance compliance certificate by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC).
“The next step which will involve the commencement of the procurement phase is placement of Request for Qualification (RFQ) in local and international media. $250 million approximately is to be raised to start up the airline by private investors,” he said.
‘The establishment of a national carrier will enable Nigeria to gain optimal benefits from Bilateral Air Services Agreements, take full advantage if the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), introduce competition, leading to competitive fares and better services as well generate employment.
“The National carrier project will be private sector driven with the government not holding more than five per cent shares. The private sector consortium may comprise reputable international airlines such as Qantas, Leasing companies, Aircraft manufacturers, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) financial and institutional investors.
“The government is providing the required support by enabling an environment in terms of sustainable policies, allocation of BASA routes, provision of financial guarantees and ensuring fiscal incentives to sustain the success of the airline,” he said.
As for the establishment of Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) Centre, Sirika explained in the document that the Ministry is at advanced stage in the procurement phase, adding that ‘a preferred partner has been selected, the next step I commencement and negotiation with the preferred partner and finalisation of Full Business Scale (FBS).
“The proposed independent MRO facility in Nigeria will serve the maintenance demands of airlines in West and Central Africa and also provide maintenance for national carrier and African leasing companies. The MRO will be structured as a Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) model with the government acting as both the grantor of the concession and facilitator of the project, while the private partner consortium will be responsible for designing, building, financing, operating and maintaining the proposed facility for an agreed concession period.
“The consortium is expected to comprise an Independent MRO company, real estate development company, construction company, financial and institutional investor. The proposed facility will have the capacity to serve both narrow- and wide-bodied aircraft maintenance requirements and will be located in Abuja, Nigeria”.
All airports to be free trade zones, says govt - PUNCH
BY Okechukwu Nnodim
All airports are to be designated free trade and economic processing zones, the Federal Government has said.
It also announced that the next step for the concession of Nigeria’s four major international airports was the placement of request for qualification in the media.
It disclosed this in a document on the status of the road map/public private partnership projects concession of airports, made available to our correspondent in Abuja on Wednesday by the Federal Ministry of Aviation.
“All airports are to be designated as Free Trade/Economic Processing Zones in order to encourage businesses/investments. Process already ongoing for the four major international airports,” the FMA stated.
It added, “Investors in aviation (are) to have pioneer industry status so as to have tax breaks.”
The ministry further stated that the concession of the four major international airports would help fast-track their upgrade, enhance their operational efficiency, profitability and reposition them to operate competitively.
It said the project was being structured as a terminal concession under a public private partnership arrangement between the government and the private sector.
The FMA explained that the private investor would be required to upgrade, manage and operate the airport terminals over the concession period.
It named the airports up for concession as the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos: international and cargo terminals and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja: international, domestic and cargo terminals.
Others are the Port Harcourt International Airport, Port Harcourt: international, domestic and cargo terminals; and Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano: international, domestic and cargo terminals.
On status of the projects, the government said, “Project development phase completed with the development of the Outline Business Case and subsequent issuance of compliance certificate by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission.
“Next step (is the) placement of Request for Qualification in local and international media.”
The document further stated that the plan to establish an aerospace university was still ongoing, as the National Universities Commission had given the requirements.
It said the ministry would develop a concept note to be forwarded to NUC for consideration.
It added that the development of cargo/agro-allied airport terminals was being done to take advantage of the high value agricultural products potential of Nigeria.
In a related development, the Federal Government has said four River Basin Development Authorities are to be partially commercialized.
Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, said this was part of the reform of the nation’s RBDAs to seek alternative sources of funding to shore up their revenue base and make them self-reliant.
Spain tourist arrivals slump 76% in March, recovery still far off - REUTERS
Foreign tourism in Spain in March fell 76% from a year ago when a lockdown was imposed in mid-month, data showed on Thursday, meaning a recovery of the crucial sector from the hammer blow of COVID-19 is not yet in sight.
Spain, the world's second most visited country before the pandemic, received 490,088 foreign tourists in March, down from just over two million in March 2020, according to the National Statistics Institute (INE).
Compared to pre-pandemic March 2019, the number was down more than 90%, but it was however higher than the 284,000 tourists registered in February.
Amid stricter travel restrictions in place with Britain, French tourists replaced Britons as the most numerous in Spain compared to a year earlier. More than 109,000 French visited Spain in March, while only 18,000 Britons came.
Tourists spent 513 million euros ($618 million) during that month, also 76% less than in March 2021, INE said.
The number of foreign tourists who visited Spain in 2020 fell by more than 80% to a level not seen in half a century as a result of travel restrictions imposed globally to curb the spread of coronavirus contagion.
($1 = 0.8300 euros)
Air France-KLM Weighs Fresh Fundraising as Losses Mount - BLOOMBERG
Air France-KLM is considering raising more capital to repair its battered balance sheet as the struggling carrier counts on a summer air-travel resurgence to stem losses.
Equity and quasi-equity financial instruments are being studied, the airline said Thursday in a statement as it reported a first quarter operating loss of 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion). Shareholders will be asked later this month to approve proposals that would potentially raise billions of euros.
The money could help lower long-term debt that totaled 14.2 billion euros at the end of the first quarter, levels that Chief Executive Officer Ben Smith has said were “holding back our balance sheet.” He signaled last month that a further recapitalization may be necessary after the airline group’s latest rescue from the French government.
In the coming months, Air France-KLM is counting on global vaccination campaigns to revive consumer demand for travel. It predicted losses this quarter would be on a par with the previous three months, when restrictions on movement remained and empty planes fueled cash burn.
“There is still a long road ahead,” Chief Financial Officer Frederic Gagey said on a call with journalists. “There is a very small risk of a cash crisis” unless the summer season turns “catastrophic.”
Air France-KLM plans to offer about 50% of 2019 network capacity this quarter and 55% to 65% during the following period, according to the statement. That’s only slightly higher than the roughly 48% achieved during the first quarter, when Covid-19 surged and many countries slammed shut their borders.
The carrier has survived the coronavirus pandemic only through massive state aid from France and the Netherlands, which together now own about 38% of the airline. Last month, Air France-KLM raised 1.04 billion euros in a new share issue as part of a 4-billion-euro French rescue plan. The move followed 10.4 billion euros in government loans and guarantees granted last year.
Gagey declined to put a figure on how much more the carrier plans to raise, saying only that part of it could come from the Dutch government, which is still in talks with the European Commission on a rescue for KLM.
He called the fundraising process “recycling of state aid,” meaning that it’s progressively transformed into instruments that can be traded on the market so as to reduce the company’s leverage. This is part of the state exit strategy that the European Commission requires, he said.
The carrier’s 8.5 billion euros of available liquidity and credit lines at the end of March “can be considered comfortable, given the expected recovery in the summer,” Air France-KLM said in the statement.
That position dwindled from 9.8 billion euros at the end of 2020 and 12.4 billion euros three months earlier.
Still, cash outflows slowed to 1.3 billion euros in the latest quarter, from 2.1 billion euros in the fourth quarter of last year.
Rival Deutsche Lufthansa AG has also relied on state aid to get through the health crisis and its shareholders this week approved a capital raise of up to 5.5 billion euros.
The German carrier has reined in capacity plans for the year, expecting to offer 40% of pre-pandemic levels following a 19% showing in the first quarter. British Airways owner IAG SA is set to report results on Friday.
One bright spot for Air France-KLM in recent months has been higher demand for cargo, which generated an 80% increase in first quarter revenue to 839 million euros.
- First-quarter revenue fell 57% to 2.2 billion euros
- Air France-KLM first-quarter loss before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization surged more than 10-fold from a year earlier to 627 million euros.
- Net debt was 12.6 billion euros end-March vs 11 billion euros end-2020
- Net quarterly loss shrank 18% to 1.5 billion euros
Where Can You Fly Right Now? Americans Jet South to Caribbean Beaches - BLOOMBERG
BY Angus Whitley, Siddharth Philip and Layan Odeh
People sit in the outdoor dining area of a restaurant in Saint Croix, Virgin Islands, U.S., on Sunday, March 28, 2021. Across the Caribbean, the impact of COVID-19 on the travel and tourism industry has been very apparent, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) said in a report. 2020 saw a 65.5 percent drop in tourist arrivals to the Caribbean. , Bloomberg
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. is spearheading a nascent revival in overseas air travel as people jump at the chance to fly to destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean without quarantines or other Covid-related restrictions.
New York to Santo Domingo and Santiago de los Caballeros, the two biggest cities in the Dominican Republic, are among the world’s busiest overseas routes this year, according to aviation analytics company Cirium. Neither made the top 10 before the pandemic. Orlando to San Juan in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico sits at second-busiest overall, behind Moscow to Simferopol, in the disputed Crimea region.
Seven of the 10 most-active international city pairs feature U.S. links, suggesting one of the world’s most-advanced inoculation programs is uncorking demand that’s been building for a year. The U.S. domestic market, unfettered by border restrictions, should return to almost normal levels by July, travel data provider OAG says.
While President Joe Biden hasn’t yet acted to lift entry restrictions on visitors, Americans are going to places they can easily get to — like Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, where they don’t necessarily need a passport, though a negative Covid-19 test is required. The Dominican Republic opened to tourists in July and offers U.S. travelers in-hotel tests before they return home. It has dropped a requirement for a negative test on arrival.
Mexico is open to quarantine-free air travel from the U.S. and doesn’t require a negative test, though visitors need one to return home after trips to popular holiday spots such as Cancun. While the test requirement threatened to hurt bookings, discount airline Volaris responded by subsidizing the extra cost. The move helped sustain a growth surge that has led the carrier to become Mexico's biggest during the crisis, with capacity levels that exceeded pre-pandemic levels as early as December.
More Than 1.17 Billion Shots Given: Covid-19 Vaccine Tracker
What’s Happening in Air Travel This Week
Globally, air travel is recovering in fits and starts as vaccine drives progress at a disjointed pace and governments tighten border rules to address flare-ups. Overall capacity inched ahead this week but still hovers at around 57% of 2019 levels, based on Bloomberg’s weekly flight tracker, which uses OAG data to monitor the pulse of the global air-travel comeback.
While the U.S. and Western Europe make plans for summer reopenings, countries are cutting ties with India: Australia barred even its own citizens from returning home from the stricken nation. Quarantine-free travel bubbles are seen as a way to pry open links, yet they have proved fragile too. Hong Kong and Singapore now have a May 26 start date after earlier delays, though a growing virus cluster in Singapore poses a fresh threat.
The paucity of international flight paths has inevitably concentrated demand on the relatively few places that are open. Many of the most popular Latin American routes out of the U.S. have more flights now than in 2019. With major international markets still closed, overseas travel will be dominated by short flights “for some time,” said John Grant, chief analyst at OAG.
Green Shoots in Europe?
Airlines in Western Europe have added flights to warmer destinations like Greece and Cyprus, as governments ease lockdowns with summer approaching. Capacity to Greece has jumped by almost 50% in the past four weeks, as it forms bubbles with countries that have had robust vaccine roll-outs and are deemed safe. There were week-to-week capacity gains of 10% or more in Spain, Italy and Germany, where a vaccine drive is gaining pace, according to OAG.
The U.K. has plans to reopen to leisure travel in mid-May, with a Green List of least-restricted countries likely to include Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Israel and Iceland, along with some Caribbean destinations, according to the head of London’s Heathrow airport. Details could be announced this week.
American Tourists May Be Allowed in London as Soon as May
Like Greece and Cyprus, Russia and Ukraine have also seen boosts as they loosen rules and attempt to attract tourists. The two countries have recovered almost 90% and 80% of 2019 capacity, respectively. Others, like Kazakhstan and Iran, are close to 2019 levels as well. Ukrainian charter and commercial-flight operator SkyUp Airlines has tapped the opportunity, expanding its network to Belgrade in Serbia, Almaty in Kazakhstan and the Georgian Black Sea resort of Batumi.
Still, there’s a long way to go. The top 10 international routes prior to the pandemic, like London-to-Amsterdam, have disappeared from the rankings altogether. The busiest routes globally are all domestic connections, primarily in Asia, according to Cirium — including the world’s most-flown route, between Seoul and the South Korean holiday island of Jeju. Even there, the volume of flights has dropped 20%.
In Australia and New Zealand, a new travel bubble has helped to boost traffic at Qantas Airways Ltd. and Air New Zealand Ltd., while Virgin Australia Airlines Pty, in the hands of private equity after a bout with insolvency, and Regional Express Holdings Ltd., have also seen a benefit from a domestic travel boom.
The potential Hong Kong-Singapore bubble, originally planned to start last November, could also release pent-up demand. While cases remain low in both Asian financial hubs, each has taken an extremely cautious approach to opening its borders. If their air link comes to pass, it would show momentum can build even in places with the tightest controls on entry.
Ontario probably won't be ready to leave stay-at-home order on May 20, experts say - CBC
The Ontario government strengthened rules three times in April, all as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surged.
Those sweeping changes started less than two months after eastern Ontario came out of the winter shutdown.
"When we saw cases dipping in February, people said 'Oh, these are the dying embers of the second wave,' but in fact they were also at the same time the sparks of a third wave," said Dr. Gerald Evans, an infectious disease specialist at Queen's University and Kingston Health Sciences Centre.
That, he said, is why it's important to be cautious when loosening restrictions.
"This is really a lesson that we need to have learned … from the previous [waves]."
Instead of putting a specific date on when the order should end, he said new COVID-19 cases need to drop significantly to below a rate of 20 per 100,000 people per week, or what used to be Ontario's yellow zone.
To put that in perspective, Ontario was at 166.6 on May 1 and Ottawa was at 102.9 as of Wednesday. Two weeks ago Ottawa's number was near 180. It hasn't been around 20 since late November.
Could parts of eastern Ontario drop that low by May 20? Probably not, according to Evans, but it's possible some regions — like Leeds, Grenville and Lanark counties, with a rate around 30 — could reach it by the end of the month.
The Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) is currently in the low 50s and the Kingston area is in the mid-40s.
EOHU Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis said earlier this week he would at least like to see the order extended through the May 24 long weekend to avoid holiday gatherings and spread.
Wastewater still high
One of Ottawa's telling coronavirus signs is in the city's poop.
The viral load in the city's wastewater has decreased, but is still two to three times higher than it was last summer and continues to hover around the January peak.
"When we go up, it's [a quite sharp] increase, but when we come down it's a very slow trailing off," said Tyson Graber, a scientist on Ottawa's coronavirus wastewater monitoring program.
He said this time around it's "stubborn" and keeps plateauing.
Part of that may be due to more contagious variants of concern, which made up more than three-quarters of the signal as of May 1.
A more normal summer
Besides the variants, another thing this wave and shutdown has had that others haven't is widespread vaccinations. That will make a big difference if measures stay in place, according to Evans.
If people can hold out a bit longer, he said the start of summer could look much closer to normal.
"The longer the lockdown is in place and stay-at-home orders are in place, then the bigger bang for our buck we're going to get from vaccination."
Airlines record 73% traffic slump amid restrictions, quarantine - THE GUARDIAN
By Wole Oyebade
Airlines in Nigeria and other African countries have recorded 73.7 per cent slump in passenger traffic for the month of March 2021. The downturn, though a global trend, is not unconnected with travel restrictions and quarantine in many countries. The International Air Transport Association (IATA), in the March passenger traffic survey released yesterday, showed that African airlines’ traffic sank by 73.7 per cent in March versus March two years ago, marking a deterioration compared to a 72.3 per cent decline recorded in February compared to February 2019. Globally, total demand for air travel was down 67.2 per cent compared to March 2019. That was an improvement over the 74.9 per cent decline recorded in February 2021 versus February 2019. The better performance was driven by gains in domestic markets, particularly China.
International passenger demand in March was 87.8 per cent below March 2019, a very small improvement from the 89.0 per cent decline recorded in February 2021 versus two years ago.
Total domestic demand was down 32.3 per cent versus pre-crisis levels (March 2019), greatly improved over February 2021, when domestic traffic was down 51.2 per cent versus the 2019 period. All markets except Brazil and India showed improvement compared to February 2021, with China being the key contributor, as already noted.
IATA’s Director General, Willie Walsh, said the positive momentum in some key domestic markets in March was an indication of the strong recovery anticipated in international markets as travel restrictions are lifted.
“People want and need to fly. And we can be optimistic that they will do so when restrictions are removed,” Walsh said. Asia-Pacific airlines’ March international traffic was down 94.8 per cent compared to March 2019, barely better than the 95.4 per cent decline registered in February 2021 versus February 2019. The region continued to suffer from the steepest traffic declines for a ninth consecutive month. Capacity was down 87.0 per cent and the load factor sank 48.6 percentage points to 31.9 per cent, the lowest among regions.
European carriers recorded an 88.3 per cent decline in traffic in March versus March 2019, just slightly ahead of the 89.1 per cent decline in February compared to the same month in 2019. Capacity fell 80.0 per cent and load factor fell by 35.0 percentage points to 49.4 per cent. Walsh observed that the emergence of new COVID-19 variants and rising cases in some countries were behind governments’ reluctance to lift travel restrictions and quarantine.
“However, we are beginning to see positive developments, such as the recent announcement by European Commission President von der Leyen that vaccinated travellers from the U.S. will be allowed to enter the EU. At least 24 countries have already said they will welcome vaccinated travellers. “We expect this to continue and gather momentum as vaccination numbers rise. However, governments should not rely only on vaccinations, as it risks discriminating against those individuals who are unable to get a vaccine for medical or other reasons, or who lack access to vaccines—a common situation in much of the world today. Affordable, timely and effective testing must be available as an alternative to vaccines in facilitating travel,” said Walsh. He added that for as long as these health measures are required, governments need to accept digital COVID-19 test and vaccination certificates and to follow global standards for issuing their own vaccination certificates and test results. “We are already seeing intolerable waits at some airports, as airlines, passengers and border control authorities are having to rely on paper processes at a time when airports are no longer designed to accommodate them. The IATA Travel Pass addresses this challenge by enabling travelers to control and share their digital vaccination certificate or test results with airlines and border authorities, easing facilitation and reducing the risk of fraudulent documents,” Walsh said.
Children in Nigeria learn chess to seek escape from country’s slums - NEW YORK POST
A dozen children crowd around plastic tables in the Majidun neighborhood of Lagos. Intently focused on plastic mats printed with chess boards, the children thoughtfully move pieces on the board as supervisors observe their moves.
The waterside shanty town is just across the lagoon from the mansions and towering office blocks of Nigeria’s commercial capital. They hope the cunning and strategy they learn on the chess board will help them make the leap out of their homes in the slum.
“To live here is hard,” said Michael Omoyele, who at 14 has already dealt with food scarcity and worked to feed himself. Inspired by “Queen of Katwe”, the 2016 film about a girl who escapes poverty in a Kenyan slum through chess, Omoyele hopes chess will help him, too.
“On the chessboard you work hard in order to win and from winning chess games I believe I can do better in becoming a champion and being wealthy also.”
Omoyele practices at home, in a room with watermarked concrete walls and peeling blue paint and the din of crying children in the background.
“This is why we are teaching them chess, as a way to raise a new generation of intellectuals, people … who will be curious enough to question everything, who will be curious enough to innovate,” he said.
United Nigeria Increases Lagos – Abuja Frequency - THISDAY
The United Nigeria Airlines has said effective from today, it will increase flight frequency from the Murtala Mohammed Airport (MM2) in Ikeja, Lagos into the Nnamdi Azikiwe InternationalAirport Abuja and vice versa.
The airline, with the development, will additionally fly Lagos-Abuja at 16:00hrs every day. United Nigeria Airlines will also, additionally, fly Abuja-Lagos every day at 17:30hrs. The new schedule adds to United Nigeria Airlines regular schedule on the Lagos-Abuja-Lagos route which emanates from MM2 at 13:00hrs and from Abuja at 14:30hrs.
As Anambra Airport Records Inaugural Flights - THISDAY
Last week the Anambra State International Airport, Umueri marked its first test flights, thus indicating the readiness of the facility to host scheduled and cargo flights. Chinedu Eze, who attended the ceremony, writes about the expected and benefits of the infrastructure to people of the state.
Anambra state government surprised many Nigerians on April 30, 2021, when its new airport received three flights to mark its inauguration. The surprise came from the fact that not many knew that the airport was being built and also not many knew that it had reached the level of completion to host flights.
This explained the excitement and frenzy when the first aircraft, a Boeing 737 operated by Nigeria’s major carrier, Air Peace, landed at the airport, the home of the people who arguably are the most travelled in Nigeria.
The people could not contain their happiness that the expanse of land that hitherto was a farmland had been transformed to an airport, where a flight could take off from anywhere in the world and land after it has been certified. The second flight that landed was Embraer 145, also operated by Air Peace and the third flight was a private jet.
The celebration was reminiscent of what happened in September 2009, when the Akwa Ibom International Airport was opened for flights. Then, the tumultuous crowd who were so elated became human traffic gridlock, as they trekked from Uyo to Okobo community to witness the first aircraft that landed at the airport.
It was also a similar scenario at Gombe when the Sani Abacha International Airport was inaugurated in 2008. The throngs of people from the state celebrated and hailed the then governor of the state for his foresight to build the airport.
For the people of Anambra state, the state government has unlocked an opportunity for job creation, for easy movement of goods and for connecting to the rest of the world from the state. Attention of Nigerians was drawn to the airport when the Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Musa Nuhu commended the facility after detailed inspection. He described it as one of the best in the country and said he was amazed at the elaborate, carefully planned and masterfully executed facilities at the new airport.
“I am amazed, almost speechless at the level of work, and the level of compliance with our regulatory requirements and also with international standards and recommended practices. “We have gone round the airport. We have a runway of 3.7kilometers with a runway safety area on both ends of the airport of about 1000 meters. There’s no airport in Nigeria that has a racer area of 1000 meters at both ends of the runway.
“With two taxiways. We have gone to the tower; the control tower is amazing, certainly if not one of the best control towers in Nigeria today. We have seen the fire service station. Amazing. “It’s going to be a CAT (category) 955 firefighting station which will allow big planes and international flights to be landing and taking off here once flight resumes.”
“It takes care of the need of not only the airport but also of the firefighting service. We have seen the emergency evacuation center, trauma center in case, God forbid, anything happens. “There’s arrangement to deal with any eventuality. I have seen the operational fence, I have seen the perimeter fence, significantly done or almost completed. And in the vehicle earlier today, I had said that ‘Anambra means business.’ And I mean it when I say Anambra means business,” the Director General, who was obviously satisfied with the work done, said.
Quick Execution The Chairman and CEO of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, an indigene of the state who was elated that the state government could in a short time build such facility, gave kudos to Governor Willy Obiano and his team for building the airport in record time.
“I shed tears when I landed here because nobody ever believed that this day would come. I remember some months ago when I went on television to tell the world that what I saw here was impressive, some people went to town to condemn me.
“But today, I have been vindicated. This is the fastest airport to be approved by the federal government for a test flight and it is a testament of the quality of job done here. What we have here is the best runway in Africa and the widest runway to be built. This runway can land a Boeing 777 and an Airbus 380, which are the biggest planes.
“We decided to bring a small plane and a big one to show the quality of job the government has done. This airport is not going to serve only Anambra people; it would serve the South East and the entire country. I said four months ago that President Muhammadu Buhari would approve this airport as an international and cargo airport.
“One thing that is certain is that the airport will generate thousands of jobs for our people. Forget where the airport is sited; we have nothing against it because there is plenty of land, which helped to ensure that a 3.7 kilometer runway was built,” Onyema said.
Quality of Work The Anambra State Commissioner for Works and Head of the project delivery team, Marcel Ifejiofor disclosed to newsmen that the level of work done in the airport was 90 percent, but the runway was 100 percent completed.
“The apron is 100 percent completed and the taxi way is 100 percent completed. The terminal is 90 percent completed. The good thing about what we are doing here is that all the equipment has been paid for. The lights, the avio bridges, the security, the Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) and the VOR (Voice Ominidirectional Radio Range) have all been paid for.
“In the next two months, everything should have been completed and we would commission the airport. For landscaping, the contract has been given. Our budget is on a yearly basis,” he explained. He said the Governor of Anambra State had created a community by building the airport, noting that an airport is a community both socially and economically. Ifejiofor added: “In the construction stage, we employed about 2,500 workers and we have the suppliers. In a day, our suppliers bring in about 72 trucks, 30 tonnes of gravels. People are supplying these things and the equipment we are using here are many.
“These include diesel, cement and sand, which are supplied. The food vendors are also benefiting. The employment opportunities are unprecedented.” He remarked that when the terminal is completed, it won’t take anything less than 1000 workers, adding that employment opportunities would cut across aviation security, fire control workers, shops and others.
Certification THISDAY learnt that since it dawned on many that the airport has become a reality, there arose a raging argument whether the airport would be designated as international airport.
Such designation, experts said, is at the discretion of the federal government. But the Anambra state government in building the airport raised it to the standard that it would meet the fire cover of international airport. It also built a runway that met international standards and all other infrastructure in the airport were built to meet the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), the Airport Council International (ACI) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) standards. But it is left to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority to give its verdict on the airport.
Ifejiofor explained, “The licence we have from the Ministry of Aviation recognises it as Anambra International Cargo Airport. It is equally licenced for passengers. Our runway is 3.7 kilometres; the apron is 300 by 200 meters. It can take eight Boeing 737. The critical aircraft for this place is Boeing 737.
“We have a strip of 140 meters on the other side of the runway. We have three access roads to this airport. We have one that is under contract and is being worked on, another one comes from Onitsha road but we have the major entrance that leads to the express. This is 5.7Km; that road is 85 percent completed. You can go through that road.”
Capacity He said that the projected passenger traffic for the airport at the onset would be 1,200 daily because the terminal was designed for 400 passengers at a time. “In other countries, there are airports in every city. The easiest and safest means of transportation is by air. So, it doesn’t matter if we have more airports. As we speak we are doing a tank farm with a capacity of 2.1 million litres of aviation fuel and it is a private sector arrangement. That facility is 80 percent completed. We have the tallest control tower in Nigeria and it is done on concrete.
“The staircase is fire prove. We call it the safe heaven. Once there is fire in that building and we enter the staircase and close it, the fire would not get in. It also has self fire-fighting equipment. We have a tank, we have a fire pump house and we send water. Every room and office has a sprinkler.
“Beside it, we have a firehouse. The firehouse is the most recent fire tenders in the world from Germany. This fire service takes 12,500 liters each and they are three. So the category of fire cover we have here is category 9, which is the biggest,” the Commissioner said.
Training He said the state government has already awarded the contract to train the technical personnel to East Wing. The personnel to be trained include general training, aviation safety and security. The Commissioner also said the Governor visited this site at least once a week and construction has been on for one year and three months and no contractor is owed; “once contractors submit their certificates, he (the Governor) pays. He has not borrowed any money to construct this airport.” Ifejiofor also disclosed that airlines and other service providers are showing interest to come to this airport, adding that so many people want to build maintenance hangar here, including Nigeria’s major carrier, which has indicated interest to set up a Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO) facility at the airport. He added that there are plans to set up aviation training school at the airport premises. “Before December 2021, commercial schedule operations would have commenced at this airport,” the Commissioner assured.
Potential Industry expert and CEO of Belujane Konsult, Chris Aligbe, told THISDAY that for the Anambra airport to be of high utility and profitable, it must be designated as cargo airport, whereby the federal government would recognise it as cargo facility to enable it take in cargo directly from overseas. “They should seek an approval for international cargo operation. They should not border about passengers. Passengers can go to Enugu for major international flights, but they should look at cargo and seek approval for international cargo operation. If they should do that and begin to build on it, the airport will become attractive. For cargo, the airport will be the only one in that region, except Enugu. But if it does well as a cargo airport, it can go a long way,” Aligbe said. Also the Chief Executive Officer of Mainstream Cargo Limited, Seyi Adewale said the airport would further endear many economic actors to the state, thereby increasing the state’s prosperity and accessibility considering the current state of the country’s road network Adewale explained that the capacity of the state to generate additional Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) would improve based on rentals and other taxes that would be generated from the airport and associated businesses. He also noted that the enhanced and efficient movement of goods, services and human capital would improve the state’s capacity to attract investment.