Aviation sec­tor in quest for Buhari’s change agenda

Daily Trust - - BUSINESS - From Ab­dul­la­teef Aliyu, La­gos

The present ad­min­is­tra­tion of Pres­i­dent Mo­ham­madu Buhari had as­sumed the man­tle of lead­er­ship on the prom­ise to ef­fect changes in all sec­tors of the na­tion’s econ­omy. The change mantra upon which the All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC)-led ad­min­is­tra­tion came into power was a ray of hope for many Nige­ri­ans and this has thus placed a huge bur­den on the ad­min­is­tra­tion to meet the high ex­pec­ta­tions of the pop­u­lace.

Given Buhari’s famed in­tegrity and sin­cer­ity, few peo­ple doubt his se­ri­ous­ness about bring­ing about the much de­sired pos­i­tive change to all strata of the na­tion. From tack­ling cor­rup­tion, youth un­em­ploy­ment, er­ratic power sup­ply, ed­u­ca­tional col­lapse, and many other key sec­tors that would drive growth and pro­pel the coun­try to greatness.

How­ever, one key sec­tor in dire need of the wind of change is the aviation sec­tor which has wob­bled for decades, stunted by lack of strate­gic sec­tor de­vel­op­ment mas­ter plan, pol­icy sum­m­er­sault, fre­quent lead­er­ship changes, round-trip­ping, in­ad­e­quate in­fra­struc­tures, among oth­ers. Though, the aviation sec­tor in Nige­ria, ac­cord­ing to ex­perts, is not an in­fant in­dus­try, the sec­tor has not been able to live up to the ex­pec­ta­tions of the found­ing fa­thers thus op­er­at­ing like a newly emerg­ing in­dus­try.

The air trans­port in­dus­try in Nige­ria, ac­cord­ing to ex­perts, dates back to the prein­de­pen­dence era in the 50s with the ac­tiv­i­ties of the West African Air­ways Cor­po­ra­tions (WAAC) which be­came the Nige­ria Air­ways pre­cisely in 1958. There was also the dereg­u­la­tion of the air­line in­dus­try which brought about the for­ma­tion of many pri­vate air­lines in­clud­ing Okada Air, Omar Air, Al­barka Air Ser­vices, Ax­iom Air, Bel­lview Air­line, Sosoliso Air­line, Cap­i­tal Air­lines, Chrome Air Ser­vices, Dis­cov­ery Air, Dasab Air­ways, Spar­rows Air, among oth­ers. Ac­cord­ing to ex­perts, up to 30 pri­vate air­lines have gone un­der up till to­day.

Some of the ex­ist­ing ones in­clude Arik Air, Med View Air­lines, Dana Air, Air Peace, Delta Air­lines, Over­land Air­ways, AZ­MAN, Aero Con­trac­tors, among oth­ers. Ac­cord­ing to the reg­u­la­tory au­thor­ity, the Nige­ria Civil Aviation Au­thor­ity (NCAA), there are 30 cer­ti­fied air op­er­a­tors, over 400 inser­vice air­craft regis­tered in Nige­ria. In ad­di­tion, there are about 46 cor­po­rate jets, 130 he­li­copters and 100 for­eign regis­tered pri­vate jets.

How­ever, ex­perts ex­press con­cerns that most of the air­lines are con­fronted with se­ri­ous fi­nan­cial chal­lenges ow­ing to debts which have made them to fal­ter in meet­ing their monthly obli­ga­tion to staff. The sit­u­a­tion could be dis­cerned from the fre­quent threats of in­dus­trial ac­tions and protests by work­ers of some of the air­lines.

All these and sev­eral fac­tors com­bined have stymied the growth of the sec­tor and pre­vented it from contributing sig­nif­i­cantly to the coun­try’s Gross Do­mes­tic Prod­uct (GDP) ac­cord­ing to ex­perts. Un­like the sit­u­a­tion in Nige­ria, an­a­lysts be­lieve aviation in other coun­tries con­trib­utes a large per­cent­age to the GDP. In fact aviation in many African na­tions is said to be per­form­ing op­ti­mally and contributing to the coun­tries’ economies while re­verse is the case in Nige­ria.

No doubt there have been pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ments in the sec­tor with the up­grad­ing and con­struc­tion of new air­port ter­mi­nals across the coun­try, the coun­try’s move to switch to the satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem un­der the Per­for­mance Based Nav­i­ga­tion (PBN) be­ing championed by the Fed­eral Air­ports Au­thor­ity of Nige­ria (FAAN) and the Nige­ria Airspace Man­age­ment Agency (NAMA), among other pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ments in the sec­tor. Be­sides, the in­dus­try en­joys cat­e­gory 1 safety rat­ing by the In­ter­na­tional Civil Aviation Or­gan­i­sa­tion (ICAO) How­ever, ex­perts say more need to be done to max­i­mize the po­ten­tials of the sec­tor. They stress the need for the de­vel­op­ment of a sound and holis­tic de­vel­op­ment plan, sus­te­nance of the ex­ist­ing pro­grammes and poli­cies de­signed to pro­pel the growth of the sec­tor, as well as the ap­point­ment of a pro­fes­sional to man the aviation min­istry.

Though a pi­lot, Capt. Hadi Sirika is one of the min­is­te­rial nom­i­nees con­firmed last week by the Se­nate, it is un­clear if Pres­i­dent Mo­ham­madu Buhari would as­sign him to man the Aviation Min­istry. Ex­perts say hav­ing a pro­fes­sional like him in that min­istry is key to bring­ing about the req­ui­site re­form that would trans­form the sec­tor and po­si­tion it as a huge rev­enue earner for Nige­ria.

An ex­pert, Mr. Chris Aligbe urged the Fed­eral Govern­ment to de­clare the aviation in­dus­try as an in­fant in­dus­try, while a tax hol­i­day should be given to air­lines to ma­ture and de­velop. Ac­cord­ing to him, de­spite many years of ex­is­tence, the aviation sec­tor in Nige­ria op­er­ates more like an in­fant in­dus­try. There­fore, govern­ment should tag the in­dus­try as such.

He said, “What I seek and sin­cerely rec­om­mend is that govern­ment should de­clare the air­line in­dus­try an in­fant in­dus­try be­cause in spite of 32 years of ex­is­tence or there­abouts be­cause the in­dus­try was dereg­u­lated in 1985/86 un­der IBB (Ibrahim Ba­bangida ad­min­is­tra­tion) when pri­vate air­lines came into ex­is­tence and since then up to 32 of them (air­lines) have col­lapsed. The ma­jor one, Nige­ria Air­ways, govern­ment liq­ui­dated it un­for­tu­nately.

“There was no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion be­cause at the time govern­ment was liq­ui­dat­ing it, the as­sets of the air­lines were three times more than the li­a­bil­ity. If you have such a busi­ness, you see what you do with the as­sets to clear your li­a­bil­i­ties and keep your busi­ness go­ing.

As at to­day, our air­line in­dus­try is in per­pet­ual in­fancy, the in­dus­try as a whole, we are not where we should be in the air­line sub - sec­tor in the en­tire aviation sec­tor, we are not where we should be. We have no world class air­port in this coun­try”.

Also speak­ing, Capt. Nuhudeen Ab­dul­mumeen said he ex­pects the Pres­i­dent to bring a lot of change to the aviation in­dus­try, say­ing, “We are talk­ing about change. There is a lot of change that needs to be worked on. You can talk about air­line, when I talk about air­line, the liq­uid­ity of the air­lines hav­ing failed to de­liver ser­vices on time”.

He added that the fed­eral govern­ment should strive to en­hance se­cu­rity at the air­port and equally in­vest in train­ing of aviation per­son­nel as a mea­sure to guar­an­tee safety in the in­dus­try. “Air­lines and or­ga­ni­za­tions should be en­cour­aged to con­tinue train­ing their staff be­cause when you train one per­son, we are talk­ing about in terms of safety and other ar­eas, ev­ery­thing works in shape but peo­ple don’t in­vest money in train­ing and re-train­ing”.

As in­dus­try ex­perts, stake­hold­ers and air trans­port pas­sen­gers await Buhari’s wind of change in the sec­tor, it is ex­pected that the an­tic­i­pated change would be holis­tic and en­dur­ing to­wards ad­dress­ing the mul­ti­far­i­ous chal­lenges that have held back the sec­tor from years im­memo­rial.

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