Nigeria’s aviation sector in limbo

Gradually, the country’s aviation sector is getting deeply enmeshed in crisis which is being aggravated by the economic hardship confronting the entire country.

Prior to this time, the sector had been struggling in the midst of one problem or the other, ranging from government’s poor policies including undue interference, multiple taxes, corruption, unstable foreign exchange to undue distractions from every angle.

Presently, all is not well with the aviation agencies where everything is at a standstill with the workers’ morale at the lowest, while the chief executives have been turned to mere toothless bulldogs that could not bite.

It is no longer news that the agencies are struggling to survive in the face of economic challenges and accumulated years of political manoeuvring.

Apart from struggling to pay workers, most of the agencies have been rendered financially incapacitated to the extent that they are finding it difficult to carry out their functions well because of the huge indebtedness of the airlines to them and coupled with the drop in business due to recession.

Even all is not well with the domestic airlines which are presently operating under a harsh condition complicated by the unstable economy where a dollar is exchanged for N415.

Besides the high exchange rate which has made it difficult for most of the airlines to tackle their operational roles well, the unreasonable high cost of aviation fuel (Jet A1), multiple taxation and other unfriendly policies such as unlimited frequencies hitherto dashed to foreign carriers among other reasons.

To say that the domestic carriers are standing on one leg to survive in view of the various reasons is not an exaggeration as witnessed in the suspension of operations by Aero Contractors, the country’s oldest airline last week due to what the management called the current economic situation in the country.

Prior to now, the domestic airlines through its Chairman, Captain Nogie Megisson, had alerted over the tight situation they are operating which the airlines claimed is putting them in a dangerous and difficult financial position.

“Till April this year, I bought Jet A1 Fuel for N105 a litre. About a month ago, the price jumped to N145. Two weeks later it rose to about N200 a litre. Today the price has skyrocketed to above N200 a litre. This has greatly increased our operational cost,” Megisson said.

Apart from Aero that has boldly come out to say all is not well, others still managing to remain are doing so under a very tight condition.

In the midst of the crisis, the once vibrant sector is speedily losing its position as a hub in the West/African sub-region to Ghana where foreign airlines are rushing to.

Many of the mega carriers are reducing their frequencies to Nigeria while they increase their operations to Ghana where the environment is more friendly and conducive to airline business.

To worsen the situation, the ministry of aviation looks comfortable with the situation as witnessed in its inability to bailout the airlines even on the issue of expensive and non-availability of aviation fuel and the high exchange rate.

It seems the government has not recognised the importance of the sector or perhaps it has not realize the state of hopelessness the sector is which is presently making key players therein to call on the government to declare a state of emergency in the sector.

Apart from the fact that the sector is losing its position to Ghana as seen in the number of foreign carriers abandoning Nigeria, even the few domestic airlines are being forced out of business by the situation.