COVID-19: Nigeria’s aviation may begin to recover in 2023 — Olowo

Unless Nigeria’s domestic airlines come together to form a formidable merger, profitability and progressive benefits inherent in airline business globally may continue to elude them.

Reiterating this point at a conference organized by the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), in conjunction with aviation journalists in Lagos on ‘Prevention of human factors in air accident occurrences’, President of Aviation Round Table (ART), Elder Gbenga Olowo, expressed positivism towards the ongoing plans by three more airlines to join the existing domestic carriers across the country.

This came even as he predicted a bleak future for the sector following the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying: “Looking at the outlook, it is not very favourable. It might take us another two, three years to get to 2019 level and if we are expanding, we better expand sensibly and economically; not just say I want to do airline for the sake of doing an airline. That is not it.”

When asked if the coming of three new airlines, United Nigeria Airline, Green Africa Airways and the Nigerian Eagle at this critical period when the coronavirus pandemic is unleashing havoc on airline business will add value to the sector, Olowo said the challenges should not prevent progress.

His words: “We should never stop progress. There is the old, the new and the now and the future. That is the challenge of now. Looking at the sector, our airlines are not too strong. We have said it enough that they should merge. I hope the sense in merger will come to play with the new ones; otherwise they will continue to parasite one another and at the end of the day, none of them may survive in another 10 years given all the constraints on  the ground now.”

Advising the coming airlines to put their house in order by meeting all the needed requirements, Olowo declares: “I hope we just don’t have airlines on paper, we want real airlines. We have been talking that we don’t want airlines with two aircraft. We want airlines with 30 aircraft and it is doable. We have been talking about it again and again. Me alone syndrome in Nigeria has been the challenge and this me alone, die alone will not help the sector. We need machinery that will bring these airlines together. That would make the country proud of two, three strong airlines in the manner of speaking.”

Reacting to the recent bailout funds doled out to the airlines and other allied businesses in the sector and how the beneficiaries should use the largesse, Olowo urged that the airlines in particular should be allowed to disburse the money whichever way it will bring relief to their business.

“The fellow that wears the shoes knows where it pains. You don’t have to tell them to spend it here or spend it there. The airlines have so many challenges. It is all about employee wages, fuel, they owe all the agencies. The guy who wears the shoes knows where it pains and palliative as small as it is, we should allow the airlines to disburse as they deem fit. If you look at the meager palliative, a chunk of it went to the agencies of government. I thought the chunk should go to the airlines because without the airlines, all other service providers won’t be there. I am an advocate of stronger airline support. That support is still meager and I don’t think they got fair share and out of those shares again, they need to pay the debts to the agencies. I am very concerned with the share they got.”

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