Thirteen airports in Nigeria have been designated as perishable cargo airports, authorities said on Tuesday, describing the move as a way of transforming the aviation sector into a major revenue earner for Nigeria.

The perishable cargo terminals would be located in Abuja, Akure, Calabar, Ilorin, Jalingo, Jos, Kano, Lagos, Makurdi, Minna, Owerri, Port Harcourt and Uyo airports.

“These airports which are in proximity to food baskets will be developed with international standard perishable cargo facilities to enhance their operations,” said Yakubu Dati, spokesperson at the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN.

Nigeria has 22 airports operated by FAAN, four of which are functional international airports. Africa’s most populous country also has a state owned airport located in Akwa Ibom State.

In addition, there are airstrips or airfields scattered around the country, built mainly by the Nigerian Air Force and multinational oil companies.

But only few of these airports have a perishable cargo terminal like the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Ikeja, Lagos, southwest Nigeria. The authorities said that must change.

Dati said state governments have also been encouraged to partner with the Federal Government to revive smaller airports.

He said the move is to enable them key into the over N250 billion annual air freight export market out of Africa.

“Countries like Kenya, South Africa, Benin, Cote d’ivoire, Ghana, Senegal, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Egypt are participating in the trading in commodities such as fruits, fresh fish, vegetables and flowers while Nigeria, which produces these produce in abundance, records zero participation.

“The strategy is therefore to create the much needed storage infrastructure in view of the large volume involved and to facilitate the evacuation of agricultural produce to domestic markets, in conformity with international standards,” he said.

The European Union (EU) is the main market for African exporters, accounting for more than 40% of total exports, followed by the US with 20%. Intra-regional trade represented only 8% of the total, with South Africa as the leading exporter to the region with 21% of the total.

In recent times, the more dynamic destinations for African products are China, with 27.5% annual average growth registered over a decade-long period and India, growing by 19.5% during the same period.

“The development of Economic Free Trade and Export Processing Zones will be targeted alongside cargo airports and afro-allied industrial clusters, based on local opportunities and the state’s competitive and comparative advantage in agriculture production,” Dati said.

—Simon Ateba