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Repositioning The Aviation Sector

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By all standards, 2011 is a year of great expectations in Nigeria. It is a year that holds so much promises, yet so much apprehension for our country.

At the beginning of every New Year, operators in all aspects of the economy make projections by working out their business plans. The aviation sector is not left out as the airlines, their regulators, the government and other aviation stakeholders are already making their business forecast.

A vivid study of the economy of the contemporary Nigeria shows that its activities and future do not lie on heavy manufacturing companies alone but also on service industries such as the aviation industry. The aviation sector is an area in which an acquired reputation and tradition of service are becoming more rather than less important.

Increasingly, government statistics underline the increasing dependence of the country’s balance of payments on the so-called invisible exports, banking and insurance, brokerage and commercial services and oil and gas explorations. The other great field for services is the transport industries which include shipping and air cargo operations.

These are major factors in our economy civil aviation and its associated airlines are already a major factor in the Nigerian economy which the government seems to be neglecting. The Nigerian civil aviation itself earns huge revenue.

Judging by world or international standards the Nigerians aviation industry is far from what it should be at the country’s age of 50. the Nigerian government has not actually declared its seriousness at making our airports attain the standard expected of them.

The aviation sector is still basking in the euphoria of the category one air safety rating awarded Nigeria by the United States Federal Aviation Administration, a feat that is a rarity among the over 50 countries in Africa.

The cheery news of the award came with its many expectations of how Nigeria should sustain the status which came as a dream come true.

Over the years, Nigeria has been striving to put the aviation sector on the global stage, despite oppositions from some quarters and the problem the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has on its neck alongside its related agencies is how to fix the necessary infrastructure at the 24 airports in the country.

Considering the importance of air travel as a composite of many travel processes, the experience sometimes is exciting and at times a nightmare and this is as a result of bad roads, urgent business appointments and other considerations combined to attract many people to travel by air. According to statistics from Federal Airports, authority of Nigeria (FAAN), about seven million Nigerians travel by air transversing the 24 airports across the country but the increasing number of passengers in Nigeria on domestic and international flights has not assuaged the complaints by teeming passengers who continue to complain about the parlous state of airport facilities in most cases decadent infrastructure.

As part of efforts at building capacity for aviation in Africa, leaders and players in the industry in the continent held a meeting in Gaborone, capital of Botswana to draw the road map for the development of the aviation sector in the continent.

Among other issues discussed at the conference was how to promote dynamic leadership in private and public institutions that are able to lead the air transport sector to achieve sustainable growth.

Nigeria was among the nations that attended the confab. One would have expected that Nigeria as an international hub of business, especially in oil and gas should learn a lesson that would reposition the aviation industry. The country has a myriad problems to tackle in the aviation sector. All the airports across the country lack the necessary facilities to operate effectively and satisfactorily to the desire of passengers.

The parlous situation at the Murtala Muhammad International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, Port Harcourt International Airport, Abuja International Airport, the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, Jos Airport and others calls for very urgent attention by the government.

There are certain things a president must not know or see but the case is not so in Nigeria. This is because the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and other agencies such as the Nigerian Airspace Management Authority (NAMA), the Nigeria Civil Aviation Agency (NCAA) and other aviation stakeholders are not living up to their expectations. It is surprising to note that since the minister of Aviation, Mrs. Fidelia Njeze was appointed, she has not visited most of the airports in the country, including the Port Harcourt International Airport, where a lot of things are going wrong.

A lot has been said and written about our airports concerning lighting system, security and general operations as well as updating of infrastructure and facilities but not much is being done. The Port Harcourt International Airport is seriously yearing for the attention of the federal government as the FAAN and other aviation agencies there are not doing anything rather than filling their pockets with the revenue being generated.

The airports are making substantial money that are supposed to be used to improve their operations. Yes, to be used to improve their operations. Yes it is true that some of the organisations operating at the various airports are owing the Federal Airports  Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to the tune of N17 billion, which the authority has been grappling to recover but it is finding it difficult to get the money. It says this is having negative impact on its operations as it cannot repair dilapidated infrastructure or address other problems at the airports nationwide.

But if one may ask, why is FAAN finding it difficult to recover its money when its clients, the airlines are smiling to the banks with huge amounts every day? It is high time FAAN worked out a strategy to recover its money and plough back into the business because airport users are complaining that they are not getting the value of their money.

While it is necessary to call on the government to take a definite stance on how to recover the debts, it has also become pertinent to urge the debtor operators to have conscience, knowing that FAAN requires money to provide the facilities for their operations. They must pay their debts if they want to sustain their operations.

Their regulator, the FAAN is getting set to give them the best in 2011 and that cannot be done without money.

For the nation’s airports to render effective, efficient and satisfactory services, this year, all issues concerning concession as it affects Maevis and Bi-Conrtney should be resolved while the upgrading of facilities at airports nationwide and other necessary projects should be completed.

Shedie Okpara

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Aviation

COVID-19: Arik Airline Sacks 300 Staff

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At least 300 staff of Arik Air have been relieved of their appointments by the airline’s management.

This was announced in a statement by the airline on Friday.
It blamed the sacking on the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.
The press statement was titled, “Arik Air management declares 300 staff redundant”.
The company explained that a redundancy package would be provided for the affected workers with the help of the aviation unions.
The statement read in part, “Arising from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to the constrained ability of the airline to complete heavy maintenance activities and return its planes to operations, stunted revenues against increasing operational costs, the management of Arik Air (In Receivership) has declared 300 staff members redundant to its current level of operations.
“The leadership of the impacted unions has been contacted to negotiate a redundancy package for the affected staff.”
The airline added that over 50 per cent of its workforce of over 1,600 staff have been on furlough in the past six months.
In a separate statement also forwarded to our correspondent by its Public Relations and Communications Manager, Banji Ola, the airline apologised to passengers whose travel plans were disrupted by the protest carried out by the National Union of Air Transport Employees on December 3, 2020.
The picketing disrupted operations in Lagos and prevented the airline from processing passengers at the Murtala Muhammed Airport Domestic Terminal 1 and 2.

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S’East Leaders Laud FG Over EndSARS

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South-East leaders on Saturday, lauded the Federal Government on the matured and responsive manner it handled all issues relating to the EndSARS protest and agitation.
The leaders of the zone, which included Governors, Senators, House of Representatives members as well as traditional, religious and youth leaders, gave the commendation in a communiqué issued after their meeting with a Presidential delegation in Enugu.
The presidential delegation was led by Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, who is the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari.
“We thank President Buhari for the speed and restraint with which he handled the EndSARS protest, which has engendered peace throughout the country, especially the South-East.
“We, therefore, request the President to look into demands of various groups and youths with a view to resolving them,’’ the statement, which was read by the Chairman of South-East Governors’ Forum, Governor Dave Umehi, said.
It also called for joint operation by security agencies and local vigilant groups into all forests in the zone to flush out criminals and killer herdsmen with AK47 rifles.
“But we pledge our commitment to continuous coexistence with peaceful herdsmen who have been living peacefully with us.
“We stand for an indivisible and united Nigeria, built on love, fairness, equity and justice. We believe that under this platform – NIGERIA; we are bigger and stronger,’’ it said.
It also called on the Federal Government to continue its support and diplomatic push for the former Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to be elected as the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
The statement thanked the Federal Government for the timely interventions in Akanu Ibiam International Airport rehabilitation as well as intervention in road infrastructures in the zone.
“We are grateful for the attention given to the second Niger Bridge and completion and inauguration of the Zik’s mausoleum.
“However, we urge the Federal Government to give attention to the completion of the current road projects within the zone,’’ it said.
The statement said that the states in the zone will provide money for the compensation for those affected by the EndSARS protest, help to rebuild police stations and their logistics; while engaging the youths constantly to forestall any violent development in the zone.
“We have plans to set up various empowerment programmes to gainfully engage the youths. The governors also plan to mainstream the youths in their governance to give them a sense of belonging.

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Minister Hails Meeting With S’East Leaders

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The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has described as “extremely fruitful” the meeting which a presidential team had with leaders and stakeholders of the South-East.
“The meeting of the presidential delegation with South-East leaders was very useful,’’ Mohammed told journalists on Sunday in Enugu.
The delegation, led by Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, met for more than eight hours in Enugu with selected South-East leaders.
Mohammed said that it was quite instructive that all the groups which took part in the meeting believed in the unity and oneness of the country, pointing out that they clearly spelt out this in their presentations.
“We listened clearly and carefully to all the positions and demands and we are going back to report directly to President Buhari,’’ the minister said.
He noted that the Federal Government had been spreading development and infrastructure to all parts of the country, simultaneously and equitably.
“We want the South-East people to be confident that the Federal Government is spreading development and infrastructure to all parts of the country equitably and will never marginalise any zone in the ongoing development and infrastructure agenda.
“This is what I want to assure Nigerians living in the South-East,’’ Mohammed noted.
According to the minister, when the team gets back to Abuja it will see what can be done immediately concerning some of the positions and demands made by the South-East leaders.
The presidential delegation met with South-East governors, statesmen, elders, religious and traditional leaders, as well as market women and youth leaders.

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