From Suleiman Idris, Lagos
The woes of the Nigeria aviation industry resonated again at a forum in Lagos where stakeholders expressed nostalgic memories of the sector in years past and lamented that policy inconsistencies, overbearing government intervention among others has sent the once leading sector in Africa to the abyss.
They posited that a holistic approach must urgently be pursued to savage the sector from further nosedive and return it to it place of pride on the African continent.
They spoke at the 23rdannual seminar of the League of Airports and Aviation Correspondents (LAAC), with the Theme: ‘Boosting Aviation Investments through Policy’.
Chairman of the occasion and Managing Director of Medview Airlines Limited, Alhaji Muneer Bankole, noted that the Aviation Industry is indispensable to the socio-economic development of any country and that Nigeria is not an exception whilst he regretted the liquidation of the defunct Nigeria Airways.
He said foreign carriers are feasting on the country’s population because Nigerian local airlines are not yet able to measure up to the expectation of maximising the country’s potential despite over 200 million populations’ advantage.
Alhaji Bankole traced the decline to the late 80s through politisation, overbearing governmental intervention and policy inconsistency; hence gestation period of domestic airlines falls within the average of five to 10 years.
Other factors he said include scarcity and high cost of aviation fuel, poor facility at airports, obsolete infrastructure, multiple taxations, shortage of forex for airline operators, multiple designation for the foreign carriers and absence of Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility.
Lead presenter and former Director General of the Nigerian Civil Authority, Dr. Harold Demuren in a paper tilted; ‘Boosting Aviation Investment Though Policy: Government Perspective,’ said Nigeria needs stable legal and regulatory frameworks to grow the industry.
He said Nigerian aviation has never been bereft of policies but they somersaulted with new ministers in place.
Dr. Demuren affirmed that government must implement key performance indexes among the civil servants.
Also speaking Chief Executive Officer of Top Brass Aviation, Capt. Roland Iyayi, said the country has a fragmented market that has led to disruptive competition.
He urged the NCAA to pay attention to both Safety and development of the industry in their purview but regretted the agency only focus consistently on safety to the extent that the airline industry is overregulated.
Chief executive Officer, African Aviation Services, Mr. Nick Fadugba, who spoke on ‘Vision 2030 for Nigerian Aviation’ said that aviation can be a vital catalyst for Africa’s economic growth and social advancement.
He said Africa needs a safe, reliable, efficient and portable air transport industry that facilitates business, trade and tourism across the continent and between Africa and world.
Fadugba said aviation safety, security, training, regulatory oversight, infrastructure, liberalisation, modernisation, funding, efficiency, affordability and profitability all need to be improved significantly.
He lamented that a situation where over 90 per cent of international air traffic to and from Nigeria is carried by non-Nigerian airlines is damaging to the economy in several ways, such as the huge capital flight from Nigeria, the continued deterioration of the Nigerian aviation industry and the loss of skilled aviation employment opportunities.
He supported the federal government’s plan to launch a new national carrier with minority government shareholding if it is one transparently and skillfully established.
To succeed, he said the new national carrier needs a sound business plan, strategic industry partners, adequate funding, an experienced management team, well trained staff, a fleet of modern aircraft, a comprehensive route network, on-time performance, good customer service and no government involvement.
He posited that African governments and regulators need to provide an enabling environment, while African airlines should work together through inter-lining, code-sharing, joint ventures and mergers and acquisitions so as to form stronger carriers that can compete effectively and can grow and prosper.
The Chairman, Air Peace, Mr. Allen Onyema, frowned at the belief that Nigerian airlines are not strong and condemned multiple designation and multiple entry.
He said Nigeria must begin to have deliberate policies to protect Nigerian investment, stressing that no foreign airline is doing Nigeria well but use some people in government to run domestic airlines out.