From Suleiman ldris, Lagos
As Nigerians awaits the commencement of flight operations of the country’s national carrier Nigeria Air slated for mid December this year, aviation experts has urge the federal government to provide a level playing ground for both the anticipated airline and those alreading existing in order not to favour the new one against the others.
They posited that the federal authority owes Nigerians the duty to explain questions surrounding the interface of the new national carrier and two others- Aero Contractors and Arik Air where government remains the de facto owners.
Speaking at the 22nd Annual Seminar of the League of Airport and Aviation Correspodents (LAAC), in Lagos, CEO of African Aviation Services Limited, Mr. Nick Fadugba “ there are many questions that needs to be answered in terms of the management, the funding, the fleet. So I believe the government now need to brief the Nigerian people on the national carrier.
Rather than doing it abroad we need to come home and explain to the whole nation what is the concept. More importantly I am interested in how does the national carrier interface with all the other airlines in Nigeria. Because remember that the government is the de facto owner of two other airlines: Arik and Aero. So this is the first time I have seen one government own three airlines. So the government needs to coordinate its airlines strategy n terms of moving forward.”
Government and the ministry of aviation need to sit down and really think carefully on what they want to do with Arik and what they want to do with Aero, because they have used public fund to maintain these airlines.
Effectively the government owns 60% of each of them and now you have created a national carrier, so there is a little bit of contradiction here. So we need to as a matter of urgency resolve what is happening to Arik. If you want to sell it to investors please go ahead and do it. Aero the same thing, I would love to see the three airlines working together, I think that will be a good strategy for Nigeria.”
Fadugba, who was the guest speaker called for collaboration and partnership in various areas of the aviation business spectrum in other to fast track the growth of the industry in Nigeria.
He said the way forward is “Cooperation and partnership,. Nigerian is blessed with the biggest domestic aviation market on the Africa continent, bigger than South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopian and many other countries. And yet we have not been able to harness this market for our own benefit. The beneficiaries are foreign airlines.
Our airline need to work together. If you have 5 aircraft, 10 aircraft, it is nothing in the world of aviation. We need a critical max. if you look Ethiopia, they have a 100 aircraft, that is one airline, and yet we have 10 airlines here with maybe 5 aircraft each. We need to work together otherwise the economics of the business are not in favour of the operators. They need to come together to scale up to get a critical max. They can work together in training, maintenance, in spare pooling, aircraft acquisitions. There are many areas African airlines and Nigerian airlines in particular can work together. So we need more cooperation in Nigeria among our airline brothers and sisters.
Also speaking on how the country can develop a potential hub in the West Africa sub-region, he said “ we have a choice in Nigeria between Abuja and Lagos but the economic hub is definitely Lagos because that is where the economic activity is, which generates air traffic. So what we need to do is to completely radically improve the infrastructure at Murtala airport. It is a great airport but it is not coping with the current challenges of growth.
There are many things which are wrong with the airport right now in terms of infrastructure, if I had my way I will build a completely new one but maybe we can’t afford it. therefore when we talk about restructuring, we have spent a lot of money over the past 5 or 10 years on restructuring airports and I cant really see meaningful, tangible benefits.”
According to him, “ There have been improvements but not in a meaningful way and if Nigeria is to move forward, if we are to build and effective hub, to improve connectivity, then we need to radically improve the infrastructure or our airports in Nigeria.”
Other speakers at the occassion were of the opinion that while the establishment of the national airline is a novel ideal by the Buhari’s administration, all sides od the divides should be look into in order not to repeat the mistakes of the past.