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‘Scarcity of forex not the major problem of airlines/aviation sector’

Contrary to the ongoing insinuation by many including the National Assembly members that among the problems affecting airlines business and the country’s aviation sector is scarcity of forex, the Managing Director of Centurion Aviation Services, Group Captain John Ojikutu has disagreed with this saying the problems are more than this.

Rather, Ojikutu has attributed the problem of the sector to the failure of  the regulatory body, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), to conduct its safety oversight functions thoroughly.

Ojikutu who was reacting to happenings in the sector particularly the controversial alert raised by Senators Dino Melaye and Godswill Akpabio of imminent crashes following what they termed inability  of airlines to  access foreign exchange to service their aircraft which they said  may force the airlines resort to cutting corners thereby endangering the lives of air travelers.

But reacting to this, Ojikutu, a former military commandant of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, said the problems confronting the airlines with the sector is more than this citing reckless spending, diversion and the reinvestment of earnings into other businesses outside aviation to be among the major challenges.

“The problems in the aviation sector is not about scarcity of foreign exchange; The main problem in the sector is the inability of the responsible authority to effectively exercise its regulatory and oversight functions over the public and private operators especially over their financial health.

“I insist, as I have done several times, that there is enough foreign exchange earnings generated yearly on international passengers service changes; aircraft landings and parking; fuel sales; royalties on Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASAs) and Commercial Agreements with foreign airlines;  Nigerian airlines foreign exchange earnings on international routes; etc.

“The problems of the operators in the sector particularly the Nigerian airlines are: single ownership, poor financial management, reckless spending of earnings both the local and foreign currencies, diversion and reinvestment of earnings into other businesses, unnecessary huge debts to major services providers and aircraft servicing vendors, insurance, corruption, etc.”

According to the aviation security expert; “It is not sufficient for the National Assembly (NASS) members to be shouting themselves hoax now on imminent plane crashes for all of us to hear or to make us all be running for shelters because of the misdeeds of the operators especially if the NASS seemed to be asking for help outside their chambers,” he said.

The EFCC and the DSS should intervene now where the NASS and NCAA seem to be helpless and be part of the solutions to the travails of the sector; we are in it together if we must sustain safe operations in the Nigerian aviation sector for the public.