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Aviation 2020: A Battle For Survival

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The Nigerian aviation sector in 2020 could be likened to a town ravaged by war with wanton destruction of lives, infrastructure and economy, that will take some time to rebuild. Although the sector started on a good footing in the beginning of the year, the outbreak  of the Coronavirus pandemic in the first quarter of 2020 caused the industry an unimaginable setback.
The Coronavirus pandemic, otherwise known as COVID-19, came like a flood, which suddenly broke down all facets of operations in an already flourishing sector, leaving negative imprints that stakeholders are still battling to tackle.
Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, the Nigerian aviation industry was in steady throttle, ranging from the certification of Abuja and Lagos airports, and the move to also certify the Port Harcourt International Airport and others.
Also, in the later part of 2018, the international terminal of the Port Harcourt Airport was commissioned, and the reconstruction work on the runway of the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu was awar-ded in August, 2019, all geared towards full operations in 2020.
Generally, the aviation sector in the country was full of activities, with efforts being made to upgrade infrastructure in most of the major airports in the country. From January to the middle of March, airports became a beehive of activities, while travelling by air became the delight of many Nigerians, especially when compared with road transportation that has almost become a nightmare due to deplorable roads and general insecurity.
But that was how far the aviation sector could go in 2020. The once bubling sector suddenly began to witness a terrible downturn in operations as soon as the COVID-19 started to rear its ugly head. The total closure of all the nation’s airports for a period of about six months by the Federal Government in an effort to check the spread of the pandemic   was the climax of the misfortune in the aviation industry.
Although all the nation’s major airports are now open to operations, there is still a lull in the activities of airlines.
The Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) Capt. Rabiu Yadudu, in the build up to the reopening of the nation’s airports, in line with the agency’s core values of safety, security and comfort of passengers, held a Skype meeting with Munich Airport International to share experience and compare notes on the effects of the COVID-19 lock-down on the airports.
The aim was to assess the readiness of FAAN to gradually begin operations, following the Federal Government’s directive for reopening of the four regional airports.
The FAAN boss said, “While FAAN is responding to the guidelines set by the NCAA for gradual airport reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic period, it is important to also compare notes with other airports in the world to make sure that we are on the right track, and join the global industry in building back travel confidence.
“Munich Airport has successfully reopened it’s airport and has recommended domestic and international flights, so it is worth sharing their experience with them”, Yadudu said.
Though there are guidelines issued by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and Airports Council International (ACI), for the purpose of reopening, the guidelines would become more successful if they are adopted based on the peculiarities of the airport environment.
At the Port Harcourt International Airport, for instance, the reopening for flight operations was greeted with numerous challenges, as many restrictions and procedures were introduced, thus raising a lot of dust and questions among stakeholders and airport users.
The negative effects of COVID-19 on airline operations brought about the issue of difficulty in the payment of staff salaries by the airlines. The maintenance of aircrafts became a major challenge with threats of sack of workers still in contention.
FAAN is not exempted. The Authority is battling with the payment of its staff salaries, which was quite unusual in the history of the agency. This has even led to a pocket of protests by its workers.
In one of the interviews granted to The Tide by the FAAN’s Head of Public Affairs at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Mr Kunle Akinbode, he admitted that lack of funds made individuals, including staff of FAAN, to contribute money for the procurement of items required to meet the COVID-19 standard protocol for the reopening of the airport.
The situation also made the airport authority to look inward to reconsider its system of revenue drive, which led to the unusual constitution of a revenue committee to recover monies being owed FAAN.
Akinbode, in the interview, said that there had been airlines that owed FAAN, but did not pay before liquidation, adding that FAAN had decided to wake up.
“FAAN had been relaxing in the collection of debts. These concessionaires look at FAAN with the idea that it is government business, so we have decided to wake up, maybe because of pressure from COVID-19”, he said.
Looking at the turn of events in the aviation industry in the country in the last one year, compared to the previous years, it is obvious that the sector faired roughly in 2020.
The concessionaires and airlines now go through tough times in operations, as cost of maintenance, repairs and overhaul of aircrafts are in hard currency, with the value of naira continuously depreciating against the dollar.
Rather than employing, airlines are contemplating retrenchment of workers; rather than acquiring more fleets of aircrafts, airlines are battling with aircrafts maintenance and how to settle the debts owed FAAN, obviously due to paucity of funds.
This informs why the airlines have  jacked up their flight ticket prices by 300 per cent within the last two months in order to cushion the effects of almost six months of non operation.
There is no gainsaying the fact that 2020 is one of the worst years for the Aviation sector, no thanks to the Coron-avirus pandemic. The situation will, therefore, require proactive steps and efforts on the part of both the government and airline operators to reinvigorate the sector. Such steps will include granting bail-out to airlines by the government, and if inevitable, a merger of some airlines to save them from total collapse.

 

By: Corlins Walter

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Estate Surveyors Reject Housing Deficit Report

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The Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV) has disagreed with the report of housing deficit in Nigeria, insisting that there is no proof to justify the report.
The institution also corroborated the assertion of the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, that Nigeria does not have a 17 million housing deficit.
A recent report had indicated that there are 17 million housing deficit in Nigeria. 
President of NIESV, Emma OkasWike, who faulted the report in an interaction with newsmen, Monday, said the body was in full agreement with the minister’s statement and position on the matter. 
“We are in total agreement with the minister on the unreliability of the 17 million housing deficit being brandished in Nigeria for lacking scientific proof.
“We are using this opportunity to reaffirm the importance of data bank and our commitment to the provision of a property data bank for all state capitals and major cities in Nigeria”, NIESV president said.
Wike, however, agreed that there are more demands in housing sector due to mass movement from rural areas to urban centres, adding that when demand exceeds supply, there will be scarcity. 
He said that the solution to the problem lies in having accurate data of empty houses in the cities, which could assist in further planning.
The NIESV president hinted that his institution had been challenged to come up with accurate data on the housing issue, pointing out that such data would help solving the housing problem.
“We have laws in this country, and law is not the problem; it is not enough to say repeal the law, but the implementation is the problem.
“The communities fighting over land, resulted in enacting the Land Use Act, and every section of the Land Use Act has been interpreted by the Supreme Court. The administration of the law is the problem we have in this country, but not the law perse”, he said.

By: Corlins Walter

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FG To Shut Ikorodu Terminal Over Explosive Overtime Cargoes

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Strong indications have emerged that the Federal Government may shut down the Ikorodu Lighter Terminal in Lagos over the recent alarm raised by the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) on some explosive overtime cargoes.
Members of the Governing Board, NPA, had recently expressed worries over some overtime cargoes that have been abandoned for over 44 years at the facility, even as they called on management of the Nigeria Customs Service to expedite actions to evacuate some of the detained consignments.
Speaking with our correspondent recently on the next line of actions by the NPA Board in furtherance to the evacuation of the dangerous cargoes, one of the board members, Hon. Ghazali Mohammed Mijinyawa, said government might shut down the facility due to high risk involved.
The board member reiterated that the explosive cargoes pose serious threat to the facility and the nation, adding that it would be wise for government to shut down the terminal and give rooms for the evacuation of such items.
According to him, the executive board of NPA will hold a retreat to determine the next line of actions on Ikorodu Lighter Terminal in Lagos.
“The executive management would have a retreat and I wouldn’t tell you what the retreat is all about but in two weeks time, we are going to shut the port terminal at Ikorodu and that is what we are going to do”, he reaffirmed.
On the issue of revoking the licenses of some terminal operators,  Mijinyawa said plans were afoot to review the port concession agreement in order to be fair to all parties involved in the process of renewal.
Mijinyawa who is also the chairman, Seaport Concession, NPA, pointed out that the terminal operators had testified that NPA was committed to the concession agreement and would further ensure fair play to all parties involved in the renewal process.
He said, “We have to sit down and have a review of everything and of course if there are those worthy of renewal we just have to give them that opportunity but for the ones that have defaulted, it is better you find out why they default before any necessary actions because you just have to strike a balance.
“It’s not a matter of I am not going to renew the agreement but to find out why are they not functioning properly. Is it because of the Covid? Is it the NPA defaulting? Is it them defaulting? So, you just have to go through the documents and see for yourself before you make a judgment of that; so that we can be fair to all parties”.
 According to him, the terminal operators appreciated the efforts of the NPA on the working relationship between stakeholders as against the backdrop of port operations since 2006.

By: NkpemenyieMcdominic, Lagos

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CBN Not Supporting Solid Minerals Dev  – Minister

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The Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, DrUche Ogah, has alleged that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has not been supporting the development of the mines and solid mineral sector in the country. 
The minister made the allegation at a two-day public hearing organised by the Senate Committee on Solid Minerals, Mines, Steel Development and Metallurgy.
The forum was aimed at getting inputs of stakeholders to the contents of four bills on how to achieve rapid development of the solid minerals sector.
The bills are Nigerian Minerals Development Corporation Establishment Bill 2021, Solid Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission Establishment Bill 2021, Institute of Bitumen Management Establishment Bill 2021, and the Explosive Act 1964 Repeal and Re-enactment Bill 2021.
The panel is also expected to investigate the loss of $9 billion annually due to illegal mining and smuggling of gold.
Ogah said, “It is unfortunate that the Central Bank of Nigeria did not believe in us. If they believe in us, if they support us the way they are supporting agriculture, we will do wonders for this country.
“This is one ministry that is untapped, that is unknown, that can change the landscape of our revenue.”
The minister said there was need to support research for growth of the sector.
According to him, “Equally, we need to ask the Ministry of Finance to speed up the export policy on solid minerals because that is the only way to have operators into the sector”.
Ogah urged citizens to be involved in checking the activities of intruders in the mining sub-sector.

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