For over 90 years, airplanes have flown over the Nigerian skies. They have carried hundreds of thousands of people between locations in the country, as well as to and fro cities beyond its borders. They have also flown goods worth billions of naira to diverse destinations.
But while transportation by air has existed for decades in
these parts, it’s still only a fraction of the transport sector. Transportation
by road contributes up to 84 percent of the sector’s GDP. Air travel and allied
business put in its shift; about 6 or 7 percent of total domestic transport revenues
come from it.
Despite being heavily dependent on the roads, Nigeria has an
aviation industry that has grown over the years. The NBS values the sector’s
output for 2019 at about ₦198 billion. That’s a growth of 32 percent from 2018, when
it added ₦149
billion to the country’s economy.
It’s a rate of expansion that most other sectors can only
dream of matching.
The industry is a network of airports, airlines,
professional services, and auxiliary businesses and agencies. Taken together,
they employ up to 250,000 persons.
There are more than a dozen domestic, privately-owned
airlines operational in Nigeria. Some of the better-known ones include Air
Peace, Arik Air, Aero Contractors, TAT Nigeria, and Azman Air. The country had
a national carrier in the past but currently doesn’t have one.
These airlines operate out of specific airports and fly certain designated routes. Airlines that fly international routes also use Nigeria’s international airports (the major ones are located in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Enugu, and Port Harcourt).
The industry is regulated by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), a body that became autonomous when the National Assembly passed the Civil Aviation Act in 2006. Commercial airports are managed by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).
More than half the revenues generated by the aviation industry come from tourism. The remainder is from services rendered by airports, airlines, and elsewhere on the supply chain.
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The first aircraft to fly through Nigerian airspace was a military plane belonging to the British Royal Air Force. It was flown from Kano to Maiduguri late in 1925.
But it wasn’t until 1958 that Nigeria had a domestic airline
owned by the state. It was a local successor of the previously existing West
African Airline Corporation (WAAC) was called the WAAC Nigeria. In 1971, it
became the Nigerian Airways.
Starting in the early 1980s, private Nigerian carriers began springing up. Kabo Air and Intercontinental Airlines were both founded in 1981; Okada Air followed in 1983, and Concord Airlines in 1989.
Nigerian Airways struggled in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, and eventually folded up after a failed takeover by Virgin Atlantic. However, the number of local carriers grew. This was spurred by an economic recovery in the 2000s, which meant more people were able to demand and pay for air travel.
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