Nige­ria needs avi­a­tion sec­tor ready for busi­ness

Business Day (Nigeria) - - FRONT PAGE - IFEOMA OKEKE

In 2018, cargo air­lines across the world earned $111.3 bil­lion as rev­enue—the high­est since 2004, Statista said. Though this de­clined to $102.4 bil­lion in 2019, it rep­re­sented sub­stan­tial rev­enue for the global avi­a­tion in­dus­try.

Amid chal­lenges faced by air­lines re­sult­ing from COVID-19, cargo traf­fic is out­per­form­ing pas­sen­ger traf­fic, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Air Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion (IATA). The as­so­ci­a­tion ex­pects cargo rev­enue to grow by 8 per­cent in 2020 ver­sus a 61 per­cent slump for pas­sen­ger rev­enue. China Air­lines’ cargo rev­enue rose by 153 per­cent in May 2020, with Ev­er­green Air­ways, a Tai­wan

ese in­ter­na­tional air­line, hav­ing a rev­enue surge of 161 per­cent in the same month. How­ever, Nige­ria is not in the party.

Thir­teen air­ports des­ig­nated as per­ish­able cargo air­ports in the coun­try are still not op­er­at­ing as such, de­spite prom­ises from the Fed­eral Air­ports Author­ity of Nige­ria (FAAN) to lever­age it to trans­form the avi­a­tion sec­tor into a ma­jor rev­enue earner for the coun­try since 2013. Growth and jobs are lost as a re­sult, wors­ened now by COVID-19.

Air trans­port GDP sharply de­clined by 57.38 per­cent in se­cond quar­ter (Q2) 2020 from 5.68 per­cent in Q1 2020 and 12.31 per­cent in Q2 2019.

“There is much we can take through cargo and we are par­tic­u­larly look­ing at agri­cul­tural prod­ucts that can ar­rive in Europe the next day fresh, which is the crux of this. For our Zero Oil Plan, we have iden­ti­fied 22 prod­ucts Nige­ria can sell. The aim is to pro­mote Nige­ria goods and find mar­ket to sell them and our ‘One State, One Prod­uct’ plan is key to this, mean­ing each state of the coun­try will give us one prod­uct that we can mar­ket, pack­age and ex­port,” Se­gun Awolowo, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, Nige­rian Ex­port Pro­mo­tion Coun­cil (NEPC), who spoke at a we­bi­nar meet­ing held re­cently at the Nige­rian Avi­a­tion Han­dling Com­pany (NAHCO) Aviance, said.

“The coun­try is blessed and yet we are still fix­ated on oil. We must put more money into non-oil ex­ports. We spend millions of dol­lars drilling for oil and most times we come up with naught, but we do not in­vest in the non-oil sec­tor,” Awolowo said.

Stress­ing on the need for ex­port to be pro­moted to grow the na­tion’s eco­nomic di­ver­sity as well as lift peo­ple out of poverty, Jimi Ade­bakin, chief ex­ec­u­tive of FBO Global Lo­gis­tics Lim­ited, also charged the govern­ment to en­cour­age low in­come ex­porters.

“If we put the same en­ergy we put in im­por­ta­tion and ex­por­ta­tion, no­body can touch us. There is a new pos­si­bil­ity we can move 20 tons in cargo daily, but with the right aware­ness, we ought to be mov­ing 100 tons daily. What is 100 tons? It is 60 trail­ers, and how many trail­ers do you see com­ing from the East or the North to La­gos?” he asked.

All the air­lines are strug­gling in the face of trav­eller ap­a­thy, high cost of op­er­a­tions, and COVID-19 health con­cerns. Air Peace with over 120 flights pre-coro­n­avirus now has 20 flights. Yet it has a work­force of over 3,000 but faces mul­ti­ple taxes that are not eas­ing out amid the pan­demic.

In view of these re­al­i­ties, Air Peace had to painfully lay off 69 pi­lots and Bris­tow He­li­copters sacked 100 pi­lots. Other air­lines have also had to re­view the salaries be­ing paid to staff.

While air­lines wait for the ‘bounce back’ pe­riod, op­er­a­tors and air­ports au­thor­i­ties are how­ever faced with the re­al­ity of re­spond­ing to the im­pacts of the pan­demic by find­ing best ways to mit­i­gate costs.

In­vest­ment in air­ports in­fra­struc­ture and fa­cil­i­ta­tion of cargo ex­ports have been iden­ti­fied as path­ways to speed up the re­cov­ery process for the air­lines and the air­ports.

Stake­hold­ers and air­line op­er­a­tors have con­tin­ued to lament poor in­fra­struc­ture up­grades at air­ports across Nige­ria, which af­fects their out­put and num­ber of staff they are able to em­ploy.

They al­lege that de­spite the mul­ti­ple charges, many of the air­ports in the coun­try do not have run­way lights and nav­i­ga­tion al land­ing aids, which mean such air­ports are only open be­tween 7am and 6pm daily.

“To this end, air­lines can’t fully utilise their air­planes for 24-hour op­er­a­tions. No air­plane or fac­tory ma­chine can be prof­itable only from 7am to 6pm day­light op­er­a­tions,” No­gie Meg­gi­son, chair­man, Air­line Op­er­a­tors of Nige­ria (AON), noted.

Meg­gi­son there­fore called for the pro­vi­sion of air­field light­ing and nav­i­ga­tional land­ing aids at all air­ports in Nige­ria to re­duce de­lays and can­cel­la­tions, and al­low for 24-hour op­er­a­tion and bet­ter util­i­sa­tion of air­planes.

In Nige­ria, pas­sen­gers spend un­duly long time at se­cu­rity screen­ing points be­cause of in­suf­fi­cient num­ber of X-ray ma­chines. Pas­sen­gers are forced to queue at se­cu­rity screen­ing points, es­pe­cially at peak hours.

In other climes, it takes be­tween 30 sec­onds to two min­utes to get screened but in Nige­rian air­ports, it takes be­tween five and 15 min­utes to get screened, depend­ing on the num­ber of pas­sen­gers wait­ing to be checked.

Air Peace and Arik Air face a lot of de­lays pro­cess­ing pas­sen­gers at the Gen­eral Avi­a­tion Ter­mi­nal (GAT) of the Mur­tala Muhammed In­ter­na­tional Air­port, La­gos, be­cause there is only one func­tional X-ray ma­chine at any point in time and hun­dreds of pas­sen­gers go­ing to dif­fer­ent des­ti­na­tions dur­ing the morn­ing rush hours must pass through one func­tional X-ray ma­chine at each of the ter­mi­nals at the GAT.

John Ojikutu, mem­ber of avi­a­tion in­dus­try think tank group, Avi­a­tion Round Ta­ble (ART), and chief ex­ec­u­tive of Cen­tu­rion Se­cu­ri­ties, listed some of the in­fras­truc­tural gaps that cause flight de­lays at Nige­rian air­ports to in­clude in­ad­e­quate check­ing- in-coun­ters; in­ad­e­quate pas­sen­gers screen­ing check­points and screen­ing ma­chines or un­ser­vice­able screen­ing ma­chines re­sult­ing in man­ual screen­ing; in­ad­e­quate air­craft board­ing gates; in­ad­e­quate air­craft park­ing ar­eas; in­ad­e­quate ground han­dling equip­ment or fa­cil­i­ties, and ab­sence of taxi­ways or suf­fi­cient links from aprons to run­ways.

Ojikutu stressed that in­ad­e­quate skilled man­power to man most of these fa­cil­i­ties or sys­tems can cause de­lays, es­pe­cially the pas­sen­gers screen­ing check­points. The In­ter­na­tional Civil Avi­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion’s (ICAO) rec­om­mended stan­dard is at least five but Nige­rian air­ports have two or three per­sons.

Other fac­tors he men­tioned in­clude poor airspace man­age­ment; in­ad­e­quate and in­ex­pe­ri­ence air traf­fic con­trollers, par­tic­u­larly for aero­dromes and ap­proach con­trol, among oth­ers.

Ex­perts have said one of the ways to make a coun­try an avi­a­tion hub, whether cargo or pas­sen­ger, is to first ad­dress its air­port in­fra­struc­ture in bid to at­tract big air­lines to fly in and out of the air­port.

Ado Sanusi, CEO of Aero Con­trac­tors, said with the right air­port in­fra­struc­ture Nige­ria could grow pas­sen­ger traf­fic by 10 mil­lion yearly.

“In Nige­ria, we have the fly­ing pub­lic, so we can still cul­ti­vate more and grow pas­sen­ger traf­fic to 10 mil­lion per an­num. This is achiev­able, but we must make sure we have the in­fra­struc­ture so that when they en­ter the air­port they will be happy with what they see. We must also have the con­fi­dence of the fly­ing pub­lic so that they will feel com­fort­able fly­ing our air­lines,” Sanusi said

Nnaji Nno­lim, chair­man, House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Com­mit­tee on Avi­a­tion, sug­gested that a 10-year devel­op­ment plan should be cre­ated for avi­a­tion in­fra­struc­ture up­grade in Nige­ria.

“FAAN and other agen­cies re­mit 25 per­cent IGR to Fed­eral Govern­ment and we are ask­ing that in­stead of re­mit­ting the 25 per­cent to Fed­eral Govern­ment, they can cre­ate a con­sol­i­dated ac­count where this 25 per­cent will be re­mit­ted into and form a com­mit­tee and from that 25 per­cent, they do a 10-year de­vel­op­men­tal plan, where they can list projects that they can do for 10 years. If you look at it, you will see that one of the prob­lems we are hav­ing is that when a par­tic­u­lar MD comes in, he will want to do a project and by the time he leaves and an­other MD comes in, the per­son will want to do an­other project,” Nno­lim said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.