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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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PH Refinery Under-goes Licensing, Minister Defends Rehabilitation Exercise

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The Port Harcourt Refining Company is currently undergoing various licensing processes following the supply of crude to the plant after it was mechanically completed in December 2023.
Senior officials at the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited disclosed this last Saturday. Similarly, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources (Oil), Heineken Lokpobiri, earlier insisted that the plant was at its final rehabilitation stage.
“The mechanical work at the Port Harcourt refinery has been completed. Also, crude oil has been sent to the plant. What is being awaited now has to do with licensing and the like. Now, these licenses are given based on some set of time-frames.
“Some officials involved in issuing these licenses are still observing the plant. Some of them came in last month and they are still there checking everything. They will also have to test-run the plant and all this will be at their pace. Most of them are foreigners and you can’t rush them.
“They have their integrity to protect, for if anything contrary happens at the refinery, the officials might be held accountable and their insurance firms would have to pay for any damage. So it is not entirely on our part when it comes to the takeoff of the refinery,” a petroleum ministry official, who spoke in confidence due to lack of authorisation to talk about the matter, stated.
In March this year, the Group Chief Executive Officer of NNPC, Mele Kyari, said the Port Harcourt refinery had received 450,000 barrels of crude oil and would begin operations in April. This, however, did not happen.
Kyari had disclosed this at a press briefing after he appeared before the Senate Ad-hoc Committee investigating the various Turn Around Maintenance projects of the country’s refineries.
“We did a mechanical completion of the refinery, which was what we said in December. We now have crude oil already stocked in the refinery. We are doing the regulatory compliance tests that must happen in every refinery before you start it, and I assure you that this Port Harcourt refinery will start in the next two weeks.
“Completing the mechanical work means that you are done with the rehabilitation work, now you have to test to see how it works. Of course, we have also completed the mechanical work on the Warri refinery. It is also undergoing regulatory compliance; processes that we are doing with our regulator, and this will soon be completed and it will be ready.
“Kaduna refinery will be ready by December. We have not reached that stage in Kaduna, but we promise Kaduna will be delivered by December,” the NNPC helmsman had stated.
On the volume of crude pumped to the plant at the time, Kyari had said, “All crude lines are active and have delivered over 450,000 barrels into the Port Harcourt refinery.”
Earlier at a press briefing on developments in the oil sector on Friday, the petroleum minister defended the ongoing work at the Port Harcourt refinery, as he told journalists that it often takes time before refineries start pumping out refined products after their mechanical completion.
Lokpobiri cited the Dangote Petroleum Refinery as an example, stating that the plant did not start releasing refined products immediately after its inauguration by former President Muhammadu Buhari in May 2023.
Dangote refinery first released diesel into the Nigerian market in March 2024, followed by aviation fuel, but has yet to release petrol, which is largely consumed nationwide.
“Port Harcourt refinery is still in the final stage of rehabilitation. After the flares at the refinery in December (2023), a lot of work has to be done. Recall that Dangote refinery was commissioned by (former) President Buhari before he left. But when did they start producing products? It took a long while.
“So it’s not just as easy as Nigerians may think. The best example is that between when Buhari commissioned the Dangote refinery and when it started bringing the products it took a long time. So I believe that within a short time we will get clarity on it (Port Harcourt refinery),” Lokpobiri stated.
The minister, however, stated that though he normally received briefings from NNPC on the status of the plant, he had always asked the company about when the refinery would eventually be completed.
“I would like you to also go to NNPC. They awarded the contract. They report to me. But they awarded the contract. They are the people who are paying for the contract. And it’s always good to get the information right from the source. I get briefed from time to time.
“The same question people are asking me is what I’m also asking them (NNPC). When are we going to actually get this thing done? But they always said, look, Dangote refinery took some time. So it’s not just as easy as we think.
“And I think all of you here are witnesses to the Dangote refinery. When it was inaugurated by Buhari and when they started bringing our products. Even up till now, they haven’t started bringing out PMS. It takes time. But our own as a government is to ensure that we support them in any way we can,” Lokpobiri stated.
He, however, assured Nigerians that the government was working hard to ensure that the refinery commences the release of refined petroleum products in earnest, as this would impact positively on the country’s economy.

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Firms Partner On Healthcare In Nigeria’s Oil Rigs

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Three companies: Nesto Aviation Services, ADAC HEMS Academy Germany, and Kasi Healthcare Offshore and Aeromedical Unit, have partnered to enhance access to emergency medical care for workers in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector.
This is in response to the fact that Nigeria’s oil and gas industry had witnessed several tragic incidents resulting in injuries and loss of life due to numerous factors.
Such factors includes aging infrastructure, lack of proper safety protocols, recklessness of operators, and inadequate monitoring and regulation by authorities.
Experts predict that the spate of accidents is likely to continue unless major reforms are implemented to improve safety standards in Nigeria’s oil industry.
According to The Tide’s source, to improve access to emergency medical care for workers in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry in offshore areas of the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa, Nesto Aviation Services (NestAv), through its General Manager, Ehis Uadiale, on behalf of the firms, issued a statement.
This, the statement said, was sequel to the launch of a regional air ambulance and Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) Service for the oil and gas sector, saying the partnership would provide a dedicated critical care aircraft for injured personnel in the golden hour.
The service will also include transport for stroke victims, heart attack patients and traumatic injuries with complications, and to those who would otherwise have limited access to emergency services in the golden hour.
The NestAv boss said the partnership is also focused on servicing in the golden hour medical emergencies occurring at remote locations across West Africa and offshore locations in Gulf of Guinea.
“The programme will prioritise training local doctors, nurses and paramedics, creating jobs and building long-term capacity within the region.
“The partnership will also launch an Air Ambulance service, utilising a King Air Aircraft operated by NestAV, equipped with advanced medical equipment and basic life support and advanced life support trained aeromedical team from Kasi Healthcare Offshore and Aeromedical Unit”, the statement said.
It also quoted the Chairman of Nestoil Group, Dr. Ernest Obiejesi, as saying that, “We are the largest indigenous EPCC service provider for major IOCs in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“This partnership represents a significant leap forward in providing critical medical care across offshore and remote locations in the Gulf of Guinea.
“By bringing together our collective strengths, we are establishing a world-class Air Ambulance and HEMS programme that will have a profound impact on the health and well-being of workers in oil industry across the region”.
A representative of ADAC HEMS Academy Germany added that, “ADAC HEMS Academy is proud to conclude the signing of a framework agreement with Kasi Healthcare as medical ops provider and Nest AV as flight ops provider in this groundbreaking project”
He continued that, under the agreement, “We are committed to establishing in Nigeria a training site linked to the ADAC HEMS Academy that is recognized by the American Heart Association training of selected AHA course formats and qualification of Nigerian instructors.
“We are also Consulting on all aspects of the configuration and establishment of HEMS in Nigeria under this project. Our knowledge and experience in aeromedical training to ensure the success of this programme and empower local healthcare professionals.
“We are also proud to be working with two organizations licensed by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) both with a commitment to safety and excellence”, Medical Director, KASI, Dr Dayo Osholowu, further added.
The ceremony featured the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the three organisations, paving the way for the development of aeromedical capacity across more than 180 remote oil and gas locations within the Gulf of Guinea.
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Dangote Expects First Brazilian Crude Shipment

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Dangote Refinery is set to receive its first shipment of Brazil’s crude oil in its bid to achieving full operational capacity.
The purchase of Brazilian crude is a first for Nigeria and Dangote Refinery is billed to import a one-million-barrel cargo of Brazil’s Tupi crude, scheduled for delivery in the latter half of next month.
The Dangote refinery has been pivotal in reducing Nigeria’s reliance on imported fuel.
Despite being Africa’s largest oil producer, Nigeria has historically depended on foreign fuel imports to meet its domestic needs, with its refineries unable to meet demand fpr the product.
Nigeria hopes that importing crude and refining it locally will enhance Nigeria’s energy security, reduce import dependency, and lower fuel prices for Nigerian consumers.
Dangote Refinery’s ability to source crude oil from diverse global suppliers will be key to its success and Nigeria’s broader energy strategy.
The Brazilian crude, sold by Petrobras, is among the most cost-effective and suitable oil grades available on the global market.
Earlier this week, the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) reached an agreement with oil producers to supply crude oil to domestic refineries at market prices on Wednesday, ending a supply dispute that had strained relations with international oil companies.
This came after oil majors where chasetised for hindering local crude oil purchases by demanding excessive premiums or claiming that they had no available crude.
This move is part of Nigeria’s broader efforts to secure a stable supply of crude for its refineries at market prices, ensuring that the country’s energy infrastructure is resilient and capable of meeting its needs without over-relying on any single source.

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