The federal government is to spend billions of naira on the development of new airstrips and rehabilitation of existing ones spread across the country, analysis of the 2024 budget of the Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace Development has shown.
Specifically, the ministry plans to spend N3.2bn for the development of various airstrips in Funtua, Kaduna; Umuahia, Abia and others.
According to the details of the 2024 budget of the ministry presented by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the ministry would also rehabilitate the existing Osubi Airstrip in Delta State with N2bn while N375m was allocated for rehabilitation of other airstrips.
Airstrip is like a mini airport designed for takeoff and landing of aircraft. An airstrip caters primarily for smaller aircraft and it usually has a single, shorter runway compared to an airport which has the full complement of facilities for commercial operation.
Daily Trust reports that operation of airstrips in Nigeria has been very problematic in terms of the management.
For instance, the existing Osubi airport, which is now dormant, was always shut down by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) over indebtedness.
However, despite the challenges with airstrip operation, the federal government appears committed to developing new ones as the 2024 budget indicates.
In addition to the new ones, the government also allocates substantial money in the budget for the rehabilitation of other airstrips like those of Hadejia, Jigawa (N100m); Bida, Niger (N75m); Irrua-Edo, Edo State (N100m); Kontagora, Niger (N50m) and Uli-Okija airstrip, Enugu (N50m).
Apart from the airstrips’ construction and rehabilitation that featured prominently in the 2024 budget, the ministry also plans to spend N2bn for the ‘Perfection of Title and Secure of Abuja Airport Land’ as indicated in the budget document.
Speaking with our correspondent on the planned airstrip construction, Aviation analyst, Group Capt. John Ojikutu, rtd, said, “If the ministry of aviation must own airstrips, they should be managed and operated by an operator that must comply statutory with the Nig CARs (Civil Aviation Regulations) in this case, FAAN.
These airports inadequacies reduce the operating periods of most of the airlines beyond their capabilities and therefore their daily earnings.”
According to him, the N5bn budgeted for the two airports is sufficient for installing CAT Two of runway lighting to at least five airports.
“Most of the airport runways, including the Abuja Runway that had its surface repaired in 2016, need serious resurfacing otherwise, incidents of bad landings that characterised most recent landings are not likely to stop and could lead to fatalities. The minister should stop wastage on things that are not needed,” he added.
On his part, Engr. Sheri Kyari, General Secretary of Society of Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineers of Nigeria (SLAMEN) said, “Undoubtedly, there is gain in such infrastructure which brings aviation closer to their communities. It will afford many children the opportunities to venture into aviation.
“Having these airports near towns and cities also helps circumvent some security challenges where many people avoid the roads with threats to lives.”