Airlines may begin to operate services at night at the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, Owerri, as the Imo state government moves to complete the installation of Airfield Lighting Facilities (AFL) at the end of October, 2023.
This was disclosed by the Manager of the Airport, Mrs. Rejoice Ndudinachi, while welcoming the Aviacargo Roadmap Development Committee on a fact-finding tour of the airport yesterday.
She disclosed that the AFL was the priority project of the Governor of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodinma, adding that hopefully the project would be completed at the end of October 2023.
Ndudinachi, said the airport has the highest passenger traffic in southern Nigeria outside Lagos and that currently the airport is almost the highest in air cargo business in the region.
Speaking further, the Airport Manager said the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, Owerri, was strategically located and that the airport was close to the commercial cities of Aba and Onitsha.
He added that it also serves people from Edo, Anambra, Cross River, Ebonyi and Abia states.
She said the cargo terminal, which is the biggest cargo facility in Nigeria, could effectively and profitably serve the country’s desire to expand and boost international airfreighting.
Ndudinachi, commended the committee for coming to do a tour of the facilities at the Cargo Airport, adding that she was honoured by their visit.
Responding, the Coordinator of the Committee, Ikechi Uko, said the Committee which was constituted by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to look critically into the air cargo business in the country and recommend ways Nigeria can boost its cargo export by air and also encourage farmers to improve their cash crops so that more perishables can be exported from Nigeria to earn foreign exchange.
He said part of the committee’s job was to see things by itself by touring cargo airports across the country and identifying challenges and potential there in.
Uko disclosed that 71 per cent of yam in Africa is produced in Nigeria but Ghana exports 95 per cent of all yam from Africa but produces only 11 per cent of the crop.
He said, “Nigeria produces 71. per cent of all the yam in Africa; Ghana produces only 11 percent; Ghana exports 95 per cent of all the yams in Africa, which means Ghana gets the other yams they export from somewhere else. “Cameroon is 1.5 per cent. Other people are 1.5 per cent. It’s obvious that the yam Ghana exports come from Nigeria, and they actually export most by air. So why are we not exporting?
“Why do 80 per cent of the produces from Plateau state rot away even when they are in high demand?”
This, he said goes to show that all is not well with Nigeria air cargo system.
All these, he said, necessitated the inauguration of the Aviacargo Committee.
According to him, “Unofficially, there are close to 20 cargo airports in the country. Almost all the states in the South have airports and almost all the states in the North have airports but we have not been able to use these airports to distribute cargo within the country.
“The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria feels that there is the need to take advantage of what we already have,” Uko said.
He also noted that without domestic cargo operations and the experience therein, Nigeria cannot effectively do international cargo export.
“The committee’s job is to identify things we needed to be done and set guidelines to show where we are and where we want to be,” he said.
The Committee Coordinator lamented that some years ago Jos operated 25 flights a day but today, the same airport is struggling to do one flight and the only one it does is a passenger flight.
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