Addressing Aviation Sector’s Challenges

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Except for regular air travellers, most Nigerians may not fully appreciate the pariah status Nigeria has gradually acquired in the aviation sector following poor and pathetic air transportation services over the years, particularly from the inception of Nigerian Airways in 1971 till its demise in 2003.
Not even the establishment of Virgin Nigeria Airways and later Air Nigeria improved the isolation by air travellers to our national carrier, over the past four decades.
The reason for such ugly development is not far-fetched. Air passengers are subjected to disgraceful, pathetic and at times, dehumanising situation when it comes to using Nigeria’s national airline.
Little wonder that the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika recently described the nation’s air transport industry as “horrible and embarrassing.
While lamenting Nigeria’s air transport industry’s woes on the sidelines of the Regional Workshop on Improvement of Fundamental Safety Oversight System in Aircraft Accident held in Abuja, recently, Sirika said the situation must change by ensuring that the civil aviation sector is private sector driven.
The minister explained that for the nation’s aviation industry to move forward like others, efficient air transport services are critical in the management and operational services of the sector as evidenced in other advanced societies.
According to him, the ongoing efforts in the last 40 years for the liberalisation of the sector by involving the private sector had failed to deliver the desired goal for the satisfaction of Nigerians, mostly air travellers. The need to re-strategise therefore becomes inevitable.
The Tide agrees no less. However, it is our candid opinion that government has not really provided the needed enabling environment to make air transport thrive.
Insecurity, poor infrastructural facilities, mismanagement, corruption and other vices, peculiar to the Nigerian society, have remained the bane of the nation’s aviation industry. And unless these variables are squarely addressed head on, the situation may remain the same.
It is regrettable that over 50 years of Nigeria’s experience in civil aviation, the sector is still awful, frightful, gruesome and horrendous as air commuters pass through agonising experiences using Nigeria’s airspace and airports.
From insecurity at the nation’s airports to poor reception by airport staff, delays and at times, outright cancellation of flights, horrible state of facilities at the airports, among other unpalatable indices have portrayed the country as an unserious nation incapable of managing her affairs. This is worrisome and unacceptable.
It is against this backdrop we agree with aviation experts that except management and operational deficiencies in the air transport industry are corrected, the sector will remain the same way, and not even the assurances by the minister on the new brand, Nigeria Air, will make the much-expected difference.
It is, therefore, pertinent that the way forward is for Nigeria and Nigerians to change the narrative, particularly in the management of public institutions, especially as it effects the aviation sector.
Quite frankly, Nigeria needs to scale up her game in the air transport business, if we must make a headway as in Ethiopia, Egypt, South Africa, Morocco and Rwanda whose airlines have made appreciable impact in the industry.
It is, indeed, regrettable that over 25 airlines have closed shop in Nigeria in the past 40 years due to ineffective and inefficient management of resources and manpower.
The Tide sincerely looks forward to when Nigeria will overcome her poor rating by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the global industry regulator and coordinator.
Meanwhile, the country must do the needful by taking into cognizance the advice of aviation experts and consultants, like Nick Fadugha of the African Aviation Services who called for a combination of efficient fleet, network, strong consumer base, strategic partnership and adequate financial resources as the way to go for better air transport services.