USMAN: LO­CAL RE­FIN­ING, SO­LU­TION TO HIGH COST, SCARCITY OF AVI­A­TION FUEL

THISDAY - - AVIATION -

is what we have been look­ing for, a ca­pa­ble Main­te­nance Re­pair and Over­haul (MRO) cen­tre or cen­tres in Nige­ria that are able to han­dle the main­te­nance of air­craft that op­er­ate in the coun­try. If we have such fa­cil­i­ties they will help in re­duc­ing the foreign ex­change ex­pen­di­ture. Aero Con­trac­tors has the po­ten­tial to pro­vide that ser­vice, es­pe­cially now you are talk­ing of at­tract­ing other coun­tries to bring in foreign ex­change by ser­vic­ing their air­craft in Nige­ria.

In ad­di­tion, you are talk­ing of more em­ploy­ment; be­cause the more work they have, the more they will be able to en­gage Nige­ri­ans. Even if we don’t have enough in Nige­ria it will at­tract for­eign­ers to come so that when they get paid they will still have to spend part of the money in Nige­ria. So it is part of what we have been look­ing for and we are will­ing to sup­port any or­gan­i­sa­tion that has met the re­quired stan­dards to achieve that. It is in our in­ter­est to sup­port that and we will con­tinue to sup­port Aero and any other or­gan­i­sa­tion that has met the stan­dards.

The Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of Air­port Coun­cil In­ter­na­tional (ACI) World, An­gela Git­tens in a re­cent in­ter­view with THIS­DAY, said that Nige­ria does not need a na­tional car­rier be­cause Nige­ria has some dy­nam­ics, one it has a di­as­pora pop­u­la­tion, two it has high vol­ume of pas­sen­ger traf­fic, so it needs a dy­namic air­line en­vi­ron­ment that can pro­mote com­pe­ti­tion. Git­tens ob­served that na­tional car­ri­ers tend to slow down the pace of progress in air­line busi­ness be­cause they tend to be pam­pered by gov­ern­ment and they are never ef­fi­cient. Sir, do you agree with her po­si­tion?

First of all, be­fore I make a com­ment on that, the en­vis­aged na­tional car­rier be­ing planned by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is not likely to be a gov­ern­ment owned air­line. As such it may not en­joy that pam­per­ing as you men­tioned. But we are all aware that Ethiopian Air­lines is owned by gov­ern­ment and yet it is do­ing very well. Rwanda Air that started just yes­ter­day is also gov­ern­ment owned and is also do­ing well, so are some other air­lines in the Mid­dle East that are gov­ern­ment owned. That is not to say that the pri­vate air­lines should be killed, no. Every­body will have his chance and be­cause there is a lot of com­pe­ti­tion it will au­gur well for the de­vel­op­ment of avi­a­tion.

This is be­cause even if you have a na­tional car­rier or by what­ever name it is go­ing to come, it is go­ing to com­pete with oth­ers. The other air­lines are still go­ing to op­er­ate; who­ever has the ca­pac­ity to chal­lenge the na­tional car­rier is more than wel­come. The na­tional car­rier will not have ev­ery­thing re­served just like it was done some­times back, re­serv­ing cer­tain routes and so forth.

Nige­rian air­lines said that they spend so much money on avi­a­tion fuel. What do you think should be the so­lu­tion to ef­fi­cient sup­ply of avi­a­tion fuel in com­par­a­tively low prices?

I will give my own sug­ges­tion. The avail­abil­ity and the pric­ing of the fuel com­mod­ity or avi­a­tion fuel are out­side the purview of avi­a­tion it­self. How­ever, if we can pro­duce it lo­cally here in Nige­ria, there is a good chance that we will have enough in terms of avail­abil­ity. There is also a good chance that price will be lower be­cause even if you are saving on just the trans­porta­tion alone to and from, that will lower it. In ad­di­tion to get­ting more em­ploy­ment for Nige­ri­ans be­cause when the re­finer­ies are do­ing that then they will em­ploy more Nige­ri­ans. As I said, it is out­side the purview of avi­a­tion but the best way to go about it is to have lo­cal pro­duc­tion and it makes it eas­ier for us to even mon­i­tor. Of course, what is within us as an author­ity is to mon­i­tor and en­sure that the qual­ity of fuel that gets on­board the air­craft is up to the stan­dard; and also the quan­tity that goes on­board the air­craft is enough to take that flight from de­par­ture point to the des­ti­na­tion point, in ad­di­tion to other cal­cu­la­tions, the al­ter­nate air­port, the hold­ing fuel (en­durance) and so on. So the fuel re­quire­ments are be­ing met.

Air­lines still say that this Cus­toms duty waiver given to them by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is not work­ing be­cause the Nige­rian Cus­toms still find a way to ask for fees and also they still de­lay spares when they ar­rive. I don’t know whether you are aware of this?

Hon­estly, I am not aware. I know that at the in­cep­tion of this ad­min­is­tra­tion those issues that came up were ad­dressed. And even where an air­line had en­gine prob­lem Cus­toms quickly al­lowed them to de­liver a re­place­ment. It was even a foreign air­line (Delta Air Lines) that had en­gine fire and they had to bring in an­other en­gine. There was in­ter­ven­tion from the side of avi­a­tion to en­sure that they didn’t pay any duty on that equip­ment in line with the pro­vi­sions of the Bi­lat­eral Air Ser­vice Agree­ment (BASA) signed be­tween Nige­ria and United States.

Nige­ria was ad­mit­ted into the Cape Town Con­ven­tion in 2011, but the air­lines say they are not ben­e­fit­ing from it. Has there been any time that NCAA in­ter­vened on the is­sue of leas­ing air­craft or in­ter­fac­ing with lessors on be­half of the air­lines?

NCAA is not sup­posed to guar­an­tee a lease be­cause it is sup­posed to be an un­bi­ased em­pire. The aim of hav­ing the Cape Town Con­ven­tion is to help, es­pe­cially African air­lines to be able to get leases eas­ily and at af­ford­able prices. Of course it came with cer­tain con­di­tions be­cause the peo­ple who are go­ing to lease will al­ways need to have some kind of com­fort that if there is any de­fault they will be able to re­cover their mo­bile equip­ment, air­craft, en­gine or any­thing along that line.

Be­fore that Cape Town Con­ven­tion leases were quite high and dif­fi­cult to come by be­cause of the dif­fi­culty ex­pe­ri­enced by those lessors in get­ting back their aero­plane when­ever there were de­faults from the air­lines. Of course Nige­ria has signed, we have rat­i­fied and we have even started im­ple­ment­ing those pro­vi­sions. The only prob­lems with the im­ple­men­ta­tion which we have been work­ing to try and re­move is where the peo­ple who have leased the air­craft will go to court and ask for an ex-parte mo­tion or or­der to stop the air­craft from ei­ther be­ing regis­tered or taken out of Nige­ria.

And we have been work­ing with the Ju­di­ciary through the Min­istry of Jus­tice to educate the Ju­di­ciary on the need to en­sure that those pro­vi­sions are main­tained. As far as we are con­cerned our own is to en­sure that the air­lines ad­here to the rules. We help to re­cover the air­craft where some­body has de­faulted in line with the agree­ment signed and we have done it with one or two air­lines. We are work­ing very hard with the Ju­di­ciary to re­move that bot­tle­neck so that more air­lines will be able to at­tract and get leases at af­ford­able prices which will trans­late even into lower cost to the pas­sen­ger.

Gen­er­ally, air­lines seem to pay more in­sur­ance pre­mium for air­craft to op­er­ate in Nige­ria. Is there any­thing gov­ern­ment is do­ing to make in­sur­ance un­der­writ­ers’ re-ap­praise this sit­u­a­tion through Nige­ria In­sur­ance Com­mis­sion (NAICOM) and NCAA?

Let me start by say­ing that the high cost of in­sur­ance is not as a re­sult of Nige­ria not be­ing safe or se­cure. Our rat­ing world­wide through the In­ter­na­tional Civil Avi­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion (ICAO), through the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion (FAA) of the United States is quite high, both in terms of the safety and in terms of se­cu­rity. To di­gress a bit, go­ing back to that Cape Town Con­ven­tion; when an air­line goes to court to stop air­craft re­cov­ery by the lessor, the man­age­ment of that air­line should un­der­stand the im­pli­ca­tion of that. The air­lines should un­der­stand the im­pli­ca­tion of us­ing court to stop the lessor from tak­ing back his air­craft when the air­line has re­fused to keep to the agree­ment reached be­fore the air­craft was made avail­able to them.

Us­ing court pro­cesses to stop the re­cov­ery of air­craft by the lessor is hurt­ing the coun­try more and also it is hurt­ing other po­ten­tial leases. So the cost of in­sur­ance if it is high has noth­ing to do with safety or se­cu­rity, there may be other fac­tors.

Re­cently, the Rec­tor of the Nige­rian Col­lege of Avi­a­tion Tech­nol­ogy (NCAT) said a pi­lot af­ter ob­tain­ing pri­vate pi­lot li­cense (PPL) and Com­mer­cial Pi­lot Li­cense (CPL) should go to gen­eral avi­a­tion and horn their skills there, not­ing that in Nige­ria when they want to type rate they start eye­ing Aero, Arik and so on. That what is done in other coun­tries is that they should go to gen­eral avi­a­tion, train with pri­vate jets and other air­craft be­fore mov­ing to com­mer­cial air­lines, say­ing this is why it is very dif­fi­cult for them to get type rated and start fly­ing within a short time. Do you agree with this? And is there any role NCAA can play in this?

First of all, let me say we have dif­fer­ent classes of li­censes. We used to have what is called stu­dent pi­lot li­cense but now it is called stu­dent pi­lot per­mit. That al­lows the stu­dent to be able to take flight in­struc­tions that will lead to get­ting li­censes. The next stage is pri­vate pi­lot li­cense and as pri­vate pi­lot li­cense holder that per­son is not to en­gage in any­thing com­mer­cial.

You can­not be paid within the job and you can­not also charge for car­riages and so on. So it is purely pri­vate pi­lot priv­i­leges. Now when you get to the next level; that is the com­mer­cial pi­lot li­cense with our in­stru­ment rat­ing in the multi-en­gine; that is the barest min­i­mum they re­quire to be en­gaged as a pi­lot. In this stage you can be paid, you can be com­pen­sated or hired and also you can do com­mer­cial op­er­a­tion. Now, that is just the ba­sic. With that some­body can get into the in­dus­try, what­ever one is able to get, whether it is pri­vate air­craft, be­cause it is sub­ject to avail­abil­ity of va­cancy. And pi­lots re­quire what we call type rat­ing, so for each air­craft that you are go­ing to fly in that par­tic­u­lar type you must be rated. You must know about the tech­ni­cal and op­er­a­tional as­pect of that air­craft and that is why you have to get the type rat­ing to op­er­ate it.

There is a gen­eral feel­ing that NCAA is al­ways hid­ing a lot of things about pri­vate jets that op­er­ate in Nige­ria. When you re­quest from NCAA how many pri­vate jets are in the coun­try the agency will not tell you. Who owns these pri­vate jets, NCAA will not tell you. Does it have any­thing to do with se­cu­rity? Be­cause peo­ple al­ways spec­u­late on how many pri­vate jets we have, but NCAA has all the records?

Well, it is a very in­ter­est­ing ques­tion and the an­swer is that peo­ple don’t come and reg­is­ter the air­craft with their names. So if you ask me who owns what air­craft, I can­not tell you be­cause air­craft are regis­tered based on the ap­pli­ca­tion and mostly they come un­der a com­pany. So only the com­pany name we are able to give and I don’t know who is hid­ing any record; all the records are there for any­body who wants to know how many air­craft are in Nige­ria for pri­vate cat­e­gory or non-sched­ule ser­vice. They are there. The in­for­ma­tion is avail­able for any­one; there is noth­ing to hide about it. But if you ask me the in­di­vid­u­als be­hind them cer­tainly I won’t be able to tell you be­cause it is not any­where on record who owns what; but of course the name of the com­pany and the air­craft is regis­tered.

In some cases, af­ter regis­tra­tion it is the com­pany that is oper­at­ing the air­craft that will make it avail­able to in­di­vid­u­als. On the num­ber of air­craft, they are there, but the num­ber is dy­namic. They change. Peo­ple sell; they buy, so what­ever fig­ures we give you will be cor­rect as at that time. And some­times main­te­nance will keep it out of the skies; some­body may own it but it is grounded.

Why is it that most pri­vate jet own­ers in Nige­ria pre­fer foreign pi­lots?

That is what we have been try­ing to dis­cour­age. When an air­craft is regis­tered in Nige­ria it will need a Nige­ria li­censed pi­lot holder. He doesn’t have to be a Nige­ria for him to have li­censes is­sued by the civil avi­a­tion author­ity. But when you have an air­craft that is regis­tered out­side Nige­ria then the reg­u­la­tions guid­ing who flies that par­tic­u­lar air­craft or who main­tains that air­craft rest with the coun­try where the air­craft is regis­tered. And of course if the air­craft is go­ing to be here, we also have to en­sure that it is oper­at­ing safely within our own sys­tem. But I don’t know that pri­vate jet own­ers pre­fer ex­pa­tri­ate pi­lots be­cause I am not an op­er­a­tor, but we have been try­ing to dis­cour­age that and the NCAA and the Min­istry of In­te­rior are work­ing to en­sure that the jobs that are meant for Nige­ri­ans go to Nige­ri­ans. That is why we are work­ing very hard to en­sure that what­ever be­longs to us gets to us as Nige­ri­ans.

Usman

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.