The President of the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, has held high-level discussions with the President and Head of State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari on aviation related matters this week.
The two officials covered topics including projected aviation growth and associated human resource capacity and infrastructure challenges, ongoing threats from terrorist organisations in the region, as well as Nigeria’s potential to position itself as a leader in the provision of air services and aviation facilities including training for aviation professionals.
President Buhari was accompanied during the discussions by Nigeria’s Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, its Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, and other high officials. Mr Aliu was joined by the Representative of Nigeria on the ICAO Council, Nwafor Emeka Martins, and ICAO’s Regional Director for Western and Central Africa, Mam Sait Jallow.
“Civil aviation in Africa is an essential enabler of growth and social development, and ICAO has been very encouraged by Nigeria’s recent leadership and commitments with respect to aviation safety, capacity, security and human resources development,” said Aliu.
Additional topics covered by the senior officials included the need to strengthen the autonomy of Nigeria’s Civil Aviation Authority and to ensure that revenues accruing from aviation activities are returned to the sector in the form of investments for training and other priorities. It was agreed that a concrete roadmap and masterplan for aviation development will be put in place as a follow up to the discussions held.
During his mission, President Aliu also met with heads of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, the Nigerian Accident Investigation Bureau and the Nigerian Meteorological Agency, as well as the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology. He visited the new Abuja International Airport terminal project, meteorological installations and weather forecasting facilities, and the Accident Investigation Agency’s laboratories.
In addition, meetings were held with senior representatives of the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Banjul Accord Regional Aviation Safety Oversight Organization (BAGASOO) and local representation of IATA in the Continent. Discussions with these stakeholders focused on the need for greater collaboration and mutual cooperation between ICAO and the respective organisations for the advancement of aviation safety, security, capacity building, infrastructure development and air transport liberalisation.
The Nigerian market holds huge potential for growth. Its domestic market is among the largest in Africa and despite infrastructure constraints it grew significantly during the 2000s. It has fluctuated this decade as safety issues (both in terms of the industry and outside threats) especially have impacted its development, although it remains a market of almost seven million annual scheduled seats, according to schedule information from OAG. This compares with the 20 million annual seats available in the more developed South African domestic market, the largest internal offering on the Continent.
Data from the intelligence provider also shows that over the past ten years international capacity has risen by an average annual rate of 5.9 percent. Local carrier ArikAir is the largest operator but accounts for just 16.2 percent of international seats in a market dominated by foreign operators, most notably Emirates Airline (10.8 percent share), Ethiopian Airlines (9.6 percent), Lufthansa (6.8 percent), British Airways (6.2 percent), Turkish Airlines (4.5 percent) and South African Airways (3.6 percent). With the exception of British Airways, all these operators are increasing their international offering in and out of Nigeria this year.
The poor intra-African connectivity from a huge home market such as Nigeria and the potential for growth is clear when you look more closely at the largest international markets from the country by capacity. Five of the top ten markets and nine of the top 15 by departure seats are not in the Continent.