Mrs Victoria Shin-Aba, one of Nigeria’s management amazons, tells Aviation Editor, CHUKWUEMEKE IWELUNMO about the silent revolution that is currently taking place at the Akure airport in Ondo State.
WHAT is the security arrangement in place for the Akure airport, especially in this era of insurgency in the country. What have you put in place to forestall any security threat?
My concern here is the issue of perimeter fence. We have a fence, actually inner perimeter fence, but it was not completed because there are some areas left. I learnt it has been re-awarded and very soon, that issue will be over. Because of that same fence issue, we normally have this cattle herdsmen intrusion, we have gone to the state and had meeting with them on several occasions but the problem still persists. We are still on it and we had meetings with their leaders to call their people to order. Aside that, we don’t really have much challenges concerning security.
One can see that the staff morale is high here and one will like to know how you have been able to put things together in the face of inadequencies in revenue generation.
First and foremost, I am an airport operator and I am an operational person. So I understand airport business and I know that airport business has to do with staff motivation and you show by example. I mother them, their problems are my problems and I live by example. What I don’t do, I will not allow them to do it. So we work together as a team. I carry everybody along. It is an open office. But the real focus is safety and security of this airport and they are aware of it. So anything that has to do with safety, I don’t compromise. They know my stake when it comes to safety and security. Nothing comes before these things; they toe the line because that is the essence of my being here.
One of the major challenges that airport managers face is that of power more so, when you don’t have enough funds coming in. How have you been able to cope?
We have an understanding with PHCN. So, if there is a major fault from Osogbo, they give us preference. Before now, the line supplying Owo was our line. When there is a problem along the route, it will affect us. Therefore, we did gang isolator. We have a facility here that will enable us to get light when there is a fault. It has helped us. When there is no public power, we have two good generators, 250KVA and 125KVA. We service them regularly and FAAN allocation is coming in regularly unlike those days, power is no problem here, we are trying to at least manage and that is the essence of being in this airport, we have to provide light, security and safety.
In terms of non aeronautic revenue, how has it been at the airport?
We are trying to make sure that we do the best we can in our circumstances. As I said, Akure airport has the largest land mass in this country. We encourage people, those who want to farm, we give them land to farm, and those for small businesses, we give them land and we encourage them to come in. Predominantly, most of what we use is that we get our money from those farmers. The communities around us that have houses in the airport land are charged minimally, at least to give them the sense that they are not the owners of the land. We have three boreholes and people come from the town to buy water. The timber loggers too are not left out, the forest is big and vast.
What you have just said showed that you spend more than you can get. How do you cope?
We can’t compare it. It is not up to 10%. This type of airport is just a social service to the state and the people. What we generate is not comparable to what we are given as allocation, how much more staff salary, pensioners, emoluments and all the development going around. To me, the airport is just a social service for the people.
The airport terminal building has been re-awarded. What is the time frame for completion?
The terminal building has twelve months but it has been on ground for more than a year now. Actually, I don’t know why they stopped temporarily because the contractor is still on site.
Has any airline shown interest to operate into Akure airport apart from Overland after the demise of Associated?
The Ondo State government is partnering with Medview on cargo because we have this agro cargo terminal. They were around to see the facilities that we have on ground. All the screening machines that we need for the terminal and cargo are ready and it is just for the building to be completed.
Generally, how would you describe the Akure airport?
We do have chartered flights, especially as the political activities are around us. Like Ekiti, we will be having election in June. It has been bringing people here. We also have chartered flights regularly and we do have training flights too from Ilorin aviation schools. Our regular scheduled air operation is there. There are so many factors for people to fly, what is the economic power of the surrounding communities, the people? What is the attraction between Akure and Abuja or Lagos? We don’t really have big companies that will attract people to this place.
As an operations person, do you see it as a wise decision for airports to be sited in Ibadan, Ekiti, Osun and Akure by state governments?
Professionally, I don’t see why they should try to build an airport in Ado. The distance between Akure and Ado Ekiti is not up to 35 minutes drive. All they need to do is to dualise the road, make it a free flowing way. If we should work together as a team, channel our resources in reviving this Akure airport and make it work like Ondo is partnering with Overland. Ekiti should partner with another airline in the form of boosting it by paying for some seats just to encourage them until the route is developed.
Fire tender is the livewire of airport in terms of emergency, how many serviceable fire tenders do you have in Akure airport?
We have one and for our category, it is okay. We do use them for mock exercise once in a while.
What legacy do you want to leave in Akure airport?
This is my first assignment as an airport manager and I made up my mind to make the best use of it, especially being a woman. Although we have had great woman managers in the past in FAAN, I will not blow my trumpet. But when I came in, at our main gate in the last 27 years since the airport was built, it never had light at night when you were passing. With the help of headquarters, we have been able to provide light to the gate.