Dr. Muda Yusuf, the former Director-General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), has pointed out that among the 32 airports in the country, only four of them can sustain themselves economically. These airports are the Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos (responsible for approximately 50% of the total revenue), Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport in Abuja, Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA), and Port-Harcourt International Airport. He made these remarks during the second annual National Transport Technology Conference and Exhibition, held virtually on Tuesday, with the theme, ‘The Viability of State-Owned Airports: Issues, Challenges, and the Way Forward.’

Yusuf highlighted the heavy reliance of many state-owned airports on subsidies from their respective state governments, primarily to maintain the appearance of functionality.

Captain Musa Nuhu, the Director-General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), echoed these concerns, emphasizing that many state-owned airports were not economically viable and were constructed without considering the air traffic in the region. He also pointed out that the increasing construction of airports by state governors places a growing regulatory burden on the agency. This situation has resulted in financial stress on various agencies within the aviation sector, including the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), and other related organizations.

Nuhu expressed his concerns, stating, “We have been stretched beyond our capacity. How does an airport generate revenue when it operates only once a week? Most of the airports are unviable; built without traffic in mind and leaving the burden to the Federal Government to shoulder. Airports should be a catalyst for economic development. It has to be well thought through. It becomes a problem when an airport will not generate economic returns.”

Susan Akporiaye, the President of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), attributed the lack of thriving state-owned airports to inadequate funding. She emphasized that no business can thrive when an airport operates only one or two flights daily.

Wole Shadare, an aviation journalist participating in the webinar, alleged that many state government-led airport projects serve as conduits for embezzlement of public funds. He expressed frustration that numerous state governors continue to build non-viable airports in their regions, subsequently transferring them to FAAN, which places additional pressure on the revenues generated by the only four viable airports. He estimated that not less than N374 billion had been expended on such projects by the states, which observers consider as mechanisms for misappropriating public funds rather than promoting economic interests.