Positioning Bayelsa International Airport For Effective Service Delivery

By Abraham Apereseimokomo Alfred

I wish to professionally recommend and same present to Your Excellency the above subject for your evaluation and subsequent consideration, as the attendant objectives this paper seeks to unearth are in line with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standard and recommended best practices. Suffice it to say, it is an indisputable fact that if the said recommendations are heeded by government, the outcome will not only strengthen significantly the economic sustainability of the state, but also further deepen the mantra of Your Excellency’s prosperity agenda, which you made bold to Bayelsans to pursue vigorously upon your inauguration as the Executive Governor of Bayelsa State.

There is no gain say that the seeming delay in the commencement of commercial flights at the Bayelsa International Airport, since the historic inauguration on February 20,2020 by the Senator Henry Seriake Dickson-led government, has created anxiety among Bayelsans, in recent times. It is also interesting to bring to the front-burner that the Bayelsa Airport, a multi-billion-naira project has unequivocally been one of the salient issues that has attracted public discourse, and also been fraught with fierce criticisms particularly among politicians and other players of the divide.

It is against this backdrop that as a professional aviator and son of the soil, I have decided, in due diligence, to shed more light on this raging topical issue while adducing cogent, apt and very convincing reasons that are traceable to the regulatory powers of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), which have kept the airport waiting for a while for commencement of commercial flights. This paper is very robust as it also seeks to underscore the reasons behind the yet to take off Bayelsa airport.

At this juncture, it is imperative we elucidate the fact that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) is the regulatory body for aviation in Nigeria. It became autonomous with the passing into law of the Civil Aviation Act 2006 by the National Assembly and assent of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Since the completion of the State airport with remarkably about 3.5km runway, which on record is one of the airports in Sub Saharan Africa with one of the longest runways, it is noteworthy that key stakeholders within and outside the state have been engaging the NCAA for an operational licence in order to commence operations. This is a formal process that is also in tandem with the Annex 14 of the Chicago Convention of 1944 upon which the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), a global regulatory body was established. The NCAA being a local regulatory body, a creation of an act of parliament monitors and embarks on periodic inspection at all airports to ensure that the requirements for operations are met in line with ICAO standard and recommended practices.

By not mincing words, the State airport is not just ultra-modern but amazingly a world class with the state-of-the-art facilities. It is in this vein we request for a bit of circumspection for Bayelsans to be more patient for the soon to be completed assessment by the regulators. It may interest us to know that the granting of operational licence by the regulatory body is procedural and a step-by-step approach that involves audit and appraisal of this critical infrastructure by the concerned government agency with the view to ensuring the facilities in the airport are standard in line with recommended best practices. This brings us to asking and answering the question: what are the requirements of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for an airport to be licensed?

i.Setting up an aerodrome protection through installation of Perimeter Fence/Perimeter Intrusion Detection System (PID) to ward off possible intrusion and hijack.

ii.Availability of Basic Operational facilities to enhance Airport operation and passenger facilitation:

a.security watch over

b.control tower

c.apron/tarmac/runway

d.communication room/emergency operation centre (EOC)

f.airfield lighting

iii.Equipment and Facilities

a.operational vehicles

b.fuel dump

d.a well equipped Fire Bay

e.power house

f.facility management services e.g cleaning services, civil/ electrical/mechanical/water and sewage

iv.Availability of Passenger Safety Equipment:

a.x-ray screening machines

b.close circuit television (CCTV) for surveillance

c.adequate manpower of personnel for facilitation of passengers

v.Standard Demarcation of the Airport into Operational Areas and Security Layers:

a.restricted areas

b.semi restricted areas

c.enhanced security restricted areas

d.lanside and airside

vi.Setting up in place access control systems for control of movement while using the permit system for control of staff and vehicular access.

vii.Formulating an Airport Security Programme (ASP): the ASP prescribes in detail the operational procedures, roles, rules and regulations guiding operations in an airport. It consists of other essential manuals/documents and activities such as contingency plans, emergency response procedures and airport safety, rules and regulations. It also presents in details installation equipment, maps and facilities location at the airport.

viii.Airport Security Committee (ASC): the ASC cuts across all security stakeholders putting necessary security checks and surveillance, watch list, screening of passengers, scrutinization of travelling documents, screening of passengers and their baggage. This has do with the different security agencies deployed by government, as recommended by the NCAA to give support to the Aviation Security Personnel at the airport. The effective and efficient security of the airport will be hampered without their deployment to every international airport controlled and managed by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria. They are namely Nigeria Police, Nigeria Army, Nigeria Airforce, Nigerian Immigration Service, Directorate of State Security Service, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Customs, Nigeria Quarantine Service, NAFDAC, Port Health Service and National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Person etc.

ix.Safety Management Manual: this manual is required to be developed by all international airports for their operations.

x.Aerodrome Manual

The afore chronicled requirements must be fulfilled by all willing airports for a take-off of operations from the time construction of the airport was started till completion of work. The NCAA takes into consideration all the listed requirements for the application for the granting of operational licence, in its oversight function, as a regulatory body. We should bear in mind that the airport enterprise is a very sensitive one. The reason, the Bayelsa Airport has stayed up till now without operation since commissioning, is its willingness to meet all these requirements.

It is key among other functions that the airport is a civil environment which fundamentally employs the resources of aviation security to prevent acts of unlawful interference in civil aviation. Aviaton security personnel, no doubt, are key players in the industry. It is in this regard, security and safety of the passengers and their baggage, airport users, staff, service providers, airline operators, handling companies and concessionaires becomes paramount in order not to compromise in standard aviation security and safety in line with recommended best practices.

The importance of airport in our economy cannot be overemphasized, and this underpins the reason the Bayelsa State government under the watch of senator Henry Seriake Dickson embarked on the Bayelsa State International Airport project. State airport largely facilitates tourism and trade, generates economic growth, provides jobs, Increases revenue from taxes and foster conservation of protected areas. It also connects people and economies to further develop the state. It is in the light of this airport administration, management and operational indices are inexorably linked with robust economic development. It is against this backdrop, we shall discuss the major sources of airport revenue.

i.Aeronautical: these are sources of income that have direct relationship to aircraft movement such as:

a.landing fees

b.parking fees

c.avio-bridges charges

d.fuel surcharge

e.passenger service charge (PSC)

f.port charges

ii.Non-Aeronautical: these are sources of revenue that do not have direct relationship to aircraft movement such as:

a.rent

b.access gate charges

c.concession fees

d.service recovery charge (SRC)

e.advert royalty

f.port charge

g.car hire service

h.car stickers

i.protocol support services

j.electricity surcharge

k.vip lounges

l.excursion

m.trolley fees

n.wheel chairs

o.overnight car park

etc

iii.Government Subvention/Grant:this is revenue the federal government or state appropriates to the airport e.g airport development fund

iv.Dividends from investment: money accrued as profits from investment

v.miscellaneous:this is the revenue derived from fines and penalty for wrong doings at the airport.They are sources such as:

i.towing vehicles

ii invoice on late payment of invoices issued from other sources of income

iii.other sundry income

As the Bayelsa International Airport is gearing up for a take-off for commercial flights any time soon, it is imperative the state government looks beyond the prism of political sentiments and puts in place a professionally viable management team that possesses the requisite professional capacity and content so as to ignite economic growth through the Bayelsa airport. Bayelsans are doing well all over Nigeria and across the world in any field of endeavour you can talk of. It is high time we invited home our own to be released on secondment.

In achieving this feat, it behoves on government to harness its local content across the nation’s aviation agencies as the airport is structured in different specialised skills. Suffice it to say, upon take off of commercial flights on the completion of Akwa Ibom International Airport, Senator Godswill Akpabio the then Governor invited a colleague of mine from. the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria as the MD/CEO of the airport. This can also be replicated in Bayelsa to further deepen the local content culture of the Senator Douye Diri- led prosperity government. We can invite home top notch aviators, who have risen creditably in the nation’s aviation sector with requisite professional experience to come home to build and develop a critical investment like the aviation industry of the state.

The ease of doing business is another innovation that must be imbibed in the process of effective service delivery. It is a strategic requirement for the positioning of our airport. By this, we mean creating an airport environment that is conducive for a seamless air travel. We can achieve this set out goal by making our airport customer centric. By this, we mean the ability to constantly and consistently give or provide what the customer wants or needs. We should put customer first in everything.

We should exemplify courtesy in our relationship with passengers for effective service delivery. Our customers are the passengers and profit making pursuit  lies in how we efficiently manage our passengers. Besides, in achieving the goal of the ease of doing business, the road to our airport must not only be accessible but motorable. We owe our customers a duty of care of maximum comfort in effective service delivery. To further underscore the ease of doing business, management should periodically engage the airline operators in stakeholders meeting while treating complaints of aggrieved travellers for efficiency and sustainability of the airport enterprise.

The airport business across the world is a competitive business. In Bayelsa Airport preparedness for a take-off, the airport management team must be proactive and always take into cognisance economic realities that have become inevitable. This is in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic that is ravaging the world. We must ensure enforcement of compliance with the Covid-19 protocols at all time. The NCAA will invoke stiff penalties on defaulting airports if the Covid-19 protocols are not adequately enforced. An airport can be shut down, if the Covid-19 protocols are not enforced in line with government regulations.

As a matter of fact, our airport must be well positioned, in view of the foregoing remarks and indices so as to compete favorably with other sister airports like the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, Osubi Airport, Warri, Benin Airport, Benin City and the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, Owerri.

I wish to reiterate by charging the management team to be duty bound to develop and profitably manage customer-centric airport facilities for a safe, secure and efficient carriage of passengers and goods at world class standard of quality. All hands must be on deck to ensure Bayelsa International Airport in a decade’s time becomes among the best airport groups in the world. May God bless Bayelsa State.

Mr Apereseimokomo Alfred is a Bayelsan from Sagbama LGA and a senior career officer with the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos.

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