Incessant scarcity and high cost of aviation fuel are hampering the drive to make the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, a regional hub.
The recent development has rendered the airport unattractive in spite of the fact that it records about seven million overseas destination passengers and is the busiest in the West African sub region.
Since the past week airlines were embroiled in another series of the scarcity of aviation fuel, known as Jet A1, which jerked up the prices and also led to the cancellation of some domestic and international flights by the airlines.
Many industry experts believe that the Lagos airport should naturally be a hub for the sub region because Nigerian airlines dominate West and Central Africa; while the country has the highest number of air travellers in the region and also records the highest number of foreign aircraft movement.
But mega carriers and even Nigerian airlines travel to Accra, Ghana to buy aviation fuel because it is cheaper there but ironically they do not produce the product.
So Ghana has become a natural attraction to foreign airlines in spite of the fact that it is a small market with the old Katoka airport.
So if mega-carriers can ensnare Nigerian passengers to Ghana with low fare incentives they would prefer to have their major operation there which will naturally make Accra a hub.
Former head of government relations for Virgin Nigeria (now Air Nigeria) and aviation consultant, Nuhu Adam, observed that for Nigeria to develop one of its airports, especially the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, into a hub, it must tackle the problem of high Jet A1 (aviation fuel) prices.
He said the government has to deal with the oil cabal that has made Nigeria airports unattractive because of aviation fuel cost and denying the country the many economic benefits of having a hub with the attendant business attractions.
Adam said without fair pricing of aviation fuel, Lagos airport or any airport in Nigeria would never develop into a hub because availability of fuel, maintenance facility are a sin qua non to developing a hub in addition to huge passenger market.
Aviation fuel price in Nigeria is the highest of any country at peace in the world, and it is still rising because this week the product was sold for almost N200.00 per litre in Lagos.
Director General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr. Harold Demuren, disclosed in a paper he once presented in Lagos that a Boeing 737, which is the major aircraft type in use in Nigeria, consumes 4,219 litres of fuel in one hour flight and at the cost of N190.00 this amounts to N801,610.
Demuren noted that aviation has become the vehicle of economic growth in Nigeria. To him, “Aviation supports the commerce of this country, more than 300 daily flights for domestic operations, more than 75 daily flights for international operations and more than 400 helicopter sorties supporting the onshore and off shore oil operations.”
He said Nigeria airlines link virtually all major cities with the FCT, commercial centre of Lagos and the oil city of Port Harcourt. “Aviation fuel, which accounts for between 25 to 40 per cent of the airlines operating cost, has gone up astronomically,” he added.