Air transport is the poster child for the transformation of Nigeria’s infrastructure. With a new dynamism driving the reform agenda, no other transport sector comes close in terms of potential for fostering economic growth. And a growing role for Nigeria’s international airports as regional and long-haul hubs is at the heart of planned developments.
The civil aviation industry is already growing, and the exciting government-led development programme offers great opportunities for investors, public-private partnerships and new jobs in the enhancement of airports, in safety and security, in airspace management and in manpower development. The growing middle class in Nigeria’s population of nearly 170 million represents enormous potential, whilst the flourishing tourist industry and ever-growing business travel are also good prospects.
Nigeria’s location makes it a natural hub for West and Central Africa. Airbus has predicted that Lagos could become an “airline megacity” handling 10,000 long-haul passengers a day within the next twenty years. There are already increasing numbers of flights between Nigeria and the rest of Africa, Europe, the Middle East and North America.
The improvements to airport infrastructure and services already under way, and those in the pipeline, will place Nigeria in the top echelon of Africa’s aviation industries.
There are currently four major international airports in Nigeria, at some of the country’s largest cities and at its capital, Abuja. The Nigerian Government is leading efforts to transform these airports through major investment in upgrading facilities to international standards and to cope with ever-increasing traffic, and bring
Nigeria’s potential to a wider
global audience.
Lagos is the commercial nerve centre of the country. Kano is the second largest city in Nigeria and the largest in the north. Port Harcourt is the capital city of Rivers State, located in the oil-rich region of the Niger Delta. Abuja is in the geographical centre of Nigeria.
Capacity must be expanded to cope with growing demand, which is expected to see domestic passenger numbers at these airports increase by 10% per year over the next five years, international passengers by 8% and cargo by 10%.
Let’s look briefly at each in turn.

Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos
The largest airport in Nigeria, and in West and Central Africa, MMIA consists of an international and a domestic terminal. The international terminal, opened in 1979, was modelled on Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.
The terminals share two runways, one of 3,900 metres positioned close to the international wing and the other of 2,743 metres. MMIA’s international terminal was designed with a capacity of 1.3 million passengers annually but is currently handling twice as many. The intended capacity of the domestic terminal was around 3,800 passengers per day but it currently handles over 10,000.

Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport
Known as the cradle of Nigeria’s civil aviation because it is the oldest airport in the country, MAKIA is located north of the city of Kano.
Since the airport assumed international status in the 1950s, the two passenger terminal buildings have been redesigned and modified several times to increase its capability. In 2010, MAKIA handled 380,000 passengers. A new domestic terminal was commissioned in May 2011. The airport has a full complement of new facilities including a CAT II runway. Kano has also been designated one of seven cargo terminals in order to maximise the skills and economic potential of the regions.

Port Harcourt International Airport
The airport at Port Harcourt was commissioned in 1979 with a single terminal providing separate facilities for international and domestic flights.
It has one 3,000-metre runway. In 2010, the airport served some 1.2 million passengers, making it the third-busiest in Nigeria.

Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA)
NAIA is located in Abuja, Federal Capital Territory. The airport was named after Nigeria’s first President, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. It has an international and a domestic terminal, which share the single 3,609-metre runway. In 2010 the airport handled 560,000 international and 3.3 million domestic passengers.

Foreign airlines operating into Nigeria
Twenty-two foreign airlines currently operate into Nigeria. All serve Lagos, while several also fly to Kano, Abuja and/or Port Harcourt. In 2011 they carried some 2.8 million passengers on Nigeria routes. British Airways, with 550,000 passengers, was the largest carrier, followed by KLM (333,000), Air France and Lufthansa (317,000 apiece), Emirates (266,000), Virgin Atlantic (217,000) and Ethiopian Airlines (165,000). Most international airlines recorded at least 50% growth on their Nigeria routes between 2006 and 2011.

There is thus a major and growing opportunity to serve the global market. The transformation of Nigeria’s international airports will enable the country to respond, whilst offering opportunities for investment and revenue generation in areas as varied as construction and management of terminal buildings, retail outlets, hotels and conference facilities, and ground transportation.