Nigeria’s aviation sector is gasping for air

There is no doubt that the country’s aviation sector is currently in a bad predicament that requires urgent attention. In other words, the sector is ‘gasping for breath’ just like former President Olusegun Obasanjo described the former ruling People’s Democratic Party.

To pretend that all is well with the aviation sector is just denying the fact that the situation the sector is in presently, if not urgently tackled by the government, may spell doom for the principle of air link between Nigeria and other parts of the world.

Obviously, the sector had never had it this bad for a long time with the near total neglect of it by the government.

It is no more news that domestic airlines are operating in a tight situation brought about by many reasons, ranging from scarcity and expensive price of aviation fuel, multiple taxation from government organisations, multiple entry points to foreign carriers, alarming foreign exchange rate, lopsided Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASAs), preferential treatment of foreign airlines over local airlines to many other unfriendly policies of government which are speedily killing the domestic carriers.

Besides the sorry state of the domestic airlines, the various aviation parastatals are now mere glorifying ‘museums of antiquities’ with little or nothing going on there due to the inability of the government to provide a new roadmap or allow the one on ground to be used.

Some of the parastatals are in disarray with no direction, courtesy of the instability and uncertainty that have hit their managements with everyone not sure of what the government is up to.

Many of the organisations are struggling to pay their workers while the morale of the workers has never been this low due to the neglect of their welfare.

To add insult upon injury, while the organisations are battling to even pay the workers, the government seems to be compounding the situation as its officials in charge of the sector are illegally  increasing the overhead cost of the organisations by imposing new employees on them through the back door.

Only few months ago, the news filtered into the sector of how the Ministry of Aviation under Senator Hadi Sirika was said to have forcefully employed and imposed over 50 new personnel on the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) under the guise of engaging them as ‘supportive staff’ even when those on ground are yet to be properly engaged and cared for.

Again, the transformation project of the airports which was started by the former administration has been abandoned leaving the huge job for the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) alone to worry about.

Every day, the whole world keeps on hearing about many ‘dirty’ concession agreements entered into by the various government agencies in the sector with private individuals which are killing the principles of partnership and subsequently creating tension and yet no help is coming from the government to address them.

Infrastructural decadence at the various airports which has not exempted the runways has been left to FAAN alone to manage.

In the recent weeks, many foreign airlines have had their aircraft damaged due to the poor state of the runway at the Abuja airport. South African Airways had in the past weeks suffered economic loss and damage to four of its planes just as Emirates at the Abuja Airport.

It is obvious that the ongoing economic hardship being witnessed by Nigerians is also affecting the revenue generation and performances of the aviation agencies which has made it too difficult to embark on urgent execution of critical projects like runway repairs.

In the midst of this, even the National Assembly that is suppose to help create the goodwill and environment through bills and laws are presently padding budgets.

The lawmakers through their committees on aviation are just warming benches there and fail to recognise the importance of aviation to the development of any country.

For sure, a lot is wrong with the sector and stakeholders are worried that the action of the government through the minister of state for aviation who coincidentally is a pilot is a far departure from the high hopes they had when the government was coming on board.

No serious nation or government toys with its aviation sector therefore, any attempt to continue to treat the sector in Nigeria with kids’ gloves will not do any government any good.