Machineries have been put in place by the Federal Government to increase the aviation industry’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) through air cargo.
This is as stakeholders have queried the avoidance of Yakubu Gowon Airport, Jos in Plateau State by cargo exporters in the country, saying that its jettisoning was a huge disservice to agricultural produce in the country.
Speaking at the tour of the Jos Airport by the Avia-Cargo Committee set up by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) in 2023, its Coordinator, Mr. Ikechi Uko said that the Federal Government was ready to revive cargo export in Nigeria through the air.
Uko regretted that Nigeria had continued to play second fiddle to other nations on the continent in cargo exportation and it’s currently ranked fifth after Kenya, Egypt, South Africa and Ethiopia.
He said it was necessary for the country to find out how Nigeria slid down the ladder, despite the arrays of agricultural products and human capital in the country.
For instance, Uko said that the team was at Jos airport to know why the airport, which was a leader in aviation cargo export in the 1980s and 1990s in the North Central Zone failed to live up to such expectations in recent years.
According to him, the Federal Government was eager and awaiting the report of the committee to put the necessary machinery in place for the rebirth of cargo through the sector.
He insisted that Nigeria would not be the number one exporter of cargo produce on the continent without Plateau State, which he said is known as the ‘Food Basket of the Nation.’
He, however, mentioned numerous challenges, which included poor packaging among exporters, high levies from government agencies and inadequate education as some of the reasons responsible for low exporting rate from Nigeria.
“We are here to know how Jos became number one and how we ruined it. What are the lessons that we can learn from the past and how can we make Nigeria the number one in Africa? Was it lack of airlines, logistics or capacity that made us fail?
“We produce a lot of things, 53 million tons of yam, Ghana produces only 8 million tonnes, but Nigeria doesn’t export yams, Ghana exports our yams and for a lot of things, they export on our behalf, they put it as produce of Ghana but we bring it from Nigeria and export.
“Why have we not been able to do that because we have not put in place a system that will adequately take care of the things that we produce. We produce a lot of things in this country but we are not able to sell,” he said.
Also, Mr. Rindap Nantim, the General Manager, of Jos Airport, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) told the Avia-Cargo Committee that the airport was now a shadow of itself.
According to him, in the 1980s and 1990s, Jos Airport was reputable for exportation of cargo from all North Central Zone of the country to cities in Nigeria and outside the nation.
He emphasised that in the past, flowers, mangoes, meat and other agricultural produce from the farms were exported through the airport, saying that while the products were available on the farms, they are no longer exported through the aerodrome.
He explained that the plan of the management was to make Jos Airport a hub for the North Central Zone, hoping that this would be realised with the renewed vigour of FAAN.
He said: “Our dream is becoming a reality with this Avia-Cargo Committee. One of the things I discussed with the management of FAAN at a retreat organised for staff in 2022 in Kano was cargo development for our airports, especially the Jos airport.
“In the 1980s and 1990s, fresh flowers, meat and other agricultural produce were airlifted from this airport to several other cities and countries, but now, the airport is a ghost of its former self. This is not because the facilities are not there, but no one is encouraging investors to come here.”Follow us on social media