In less than three weeks from now, year 2019 will wind up to usher in year 2020 with expectations from all cadres of the government very high.
The country’s aviation sector is a sector where expectations are very high in view of the critical role it plays as the point which is not only connecting the country to the other parts of the world, but also, as one of the major sectors responsible for generating huge funds to the coffers of government.
The sector in the outgoing year has had its own pockets of challenges, ranging from unpopular policies of government like: high exchange rate, failure of government to back up the domestic airlines vis a vis engaging in aero politics to protect the domestic carriers outside the shore of the land, expensive aviation fuel, too many taxes, lack of cooperation amongst domestic airlines to the undue advantages being given to the foreign carriers and many more.
Within the outgoing year, operational activities on the domestic scene was full of ups and downs with each of the existing six airlines struggling to remain in business except Air Peace that recorded some feats both within and outside the country.
Besides lull business on the domestic scene, the sector in general, though recorded high level of safety with no accident, unfortunately many critical issues were left unresolved which remain the bane of the sector.
One of such issues was the uncertainties surrounding the earlier plans by government to concession four international airports across the country. Since the announcement on the concession plans were made by the minister of state for aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, nothing has been heard of it.
The plan to float another national carrier, Nigeria Air, was again aborted despite the huge funds that the government had sunk into it in 2018.
While the plans to float the new national carrier was unclear to Nigerians, the issue became more confusing as some interest groups continue to fly the Arik/Aero merger kite as the would-be national carrier.
The outgoing year also failed to tackle the lingering crisis over concession agreements between the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and many of its concessionaires particularly Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL), managers of the Terminal Two, otherwise known as MMA2.
There are many other controversial concession agreements, but the most topical has remained the one between FAAN and BASL which has remained unresolved even when the issue has become a matter of litigation.
The singular controversy the FAAN/BASL failed agreement has garnered has however discouraged many private investors from further investing in the sector on the premise that Nigeria’s government does not honour contractual agreements.
One or two of the aviation agencies; the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) were denied adequate funding that prevented them from executing major projects.
The inability of government to address these controversies has, without doubt, rubbed off on the image of the entire sector and the probability that the situation may change before the year runs to an end by December 31, may be a tall dream.
There is, therefore, the need for government tackle these issues and many others calling for attention in the coming year as this will go a long way in repositioning the entire sector and make the environment more friendly and draw more private investments into the sector.
Making the environment more friendly in the coming year, with government playing its roles effectively, will rather than scare investors away, change the negative perception about the entire aviation sector.