Why an airport project?
First and foremost, the plan of the state government is to make the airport a gateway to this region and as a reference point for this country in aviation industry. That is what we want to do and we are still on track on our mission. We are having tremendous support from the government and the regulatory body; the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has been working with us for us to get to where we are now, but we will want to move further than that. That is why we have succeeded so far.
The entire plan of the state is to develop the airport in three phases; we have finished phase one basically with a lot of overlap of the items on phase one to phase two and then, the ultimate phase. At the beginning, we looked at an airport that would assist our people to move out because we were coming from a point that if you wanted to come into this state, you have to go through the neighbouring states. The roads were not the very best and any businessman that wanted to come here must devote about two days to do that.
Partnership with investors on maintenance, repair and overhaul
We are talking to people on this. There are some people who have shown interest now that will come in, take the design, build it and operate for sometime. On the MRO, we realise that we won’t just look at just the operator, but a known name in that business so that people will be encouraged to bring their aircraft in. Before you touch somebody’s aircraft, the manufacturer must certify you and we are almost through with those things that have the approval. They came here and gave us people at supervisory level and you know the state government has spent a lot of money training engineers on ground.
They were in the United States of America for training, they came back and we attached them to some of the airlines and some have gone back to Ethiopia and they spent 14 months there again to make sure that their licenses are up to date.
I know a lot of passengers are happy for the convenience they are getting within the airport today, but the most critical aspect is the safety and security as you said. We have paid a lot of attention to security in this airport. Not too long ago, NCAA rated us as the most secure airport in the country and we are proud of this achievement. But we are still lifting up the standard so that others would follow. At this airport, we have a perimeter fence, internal fence for the airside and perimeter road.
Beyond that, we have a full command system in this building. From there, you can see whatever is happening within the airport to the extent that if you are coming by the gate there, we can read your plate number and this goes into data.
As far as 2008, we trained people in Air Traffic Control (ATC), but because of the existing laws, they were not licensed and you know in an airport you want to operate continuously, the ATC must be in good numbers.
The state has spent something in the neighbourhood of N2.5bn on training of manpower in different countries both in Africa, Europe and America. Aviation business is highly capital intensive, but it will pay you more in the future. For now, no fewer than 471 technical personnel have been trained by the state in operations, engineering, ATC and so on and so forth. We will continue to train more people because the attitude of Akwa-Ibom is not just this airport, but rather we are looking at aviation as a place to invest. We’ve found out that maybe because of its close correlation with technology, aviation will be the future and that is why Akwa Ibom has taken the lead. If you invest in that area, you are likely to reap a lot of dividends in the future.
Investment on airport
You can’t get that straight off from here, but I can only say we estimated $250m for the project then before we went into phase two. I won’t think we have exceeded that for now, but again, we’ve gotten to a stage now that investors would come in.
Details of second phase
The second phase of the project consists of the parallel taxiway, which will come in handy whenever a repair work is being done on the main runway; we can actually use the taxiway for a certain category of aircraft because the load facilitation factor will not be the same. On the taxiway, about 30 metres will be the full compact while on the main runway is about 45 metres. The international terminal also involves getting fuel underground. So, the fuel matter is going to be very seriously addressed because of the things we are doing and the fuel will pass through underground so that fuel contamination will be eliminated and all that.
interview with Sade Williams