Nigeria’s aviation sector still in limbo

The next 24 hours will announce the coming of a new year, 2022 precisely with the whole world bidding bye to 2021.

Nigeria’s aviation sector, like other sectors of the economy, will definitely not forget the outgoing year in a hurry in view of the myriad of challenges that rocked the entire system.

The challenges, ranging from economic hardship to insecurity, finally aggravated by the Coronavirus pandemic which started since 2020 and continued till the outgoing year, really caused a deep devastation to air travels not only in the country but across the world.

Many airlines around the world were forced to close business with few in existence sacking more than half of their workers.

Gradually, as airline businesses and aviation were picking up; Omicron COVID-19 variant reared its head towards the end of the outgoing year thereby throwing confusion at the system again.

Besides the pandemic, the aviation sector in Nigeria before now had been enmeshed in homegrown crisis ranging from unpopular government policies to politicisation of issues affecting the entire sector.

It is on record that despite the negative impacts of the pandemic on global airline business, airline business in Nigeria has been able to not only survive but greatly improved as witnessed in the numbers of new airlines that joined the business while many others succeeded in buying more new generational aircraft.

Obviously, the sector has not done badly in the outgoing year but for some controversial policies of government which rather than help reposition the sector, has only complicated issues.

Notable among such policies which occupied the front burner in the outgoing year but never yielded any dividend is the lingering issues of floating a new national carrier, Nigeria Air, airports concessioning.

As good as the two policies would have been, the procedures engaged by the government as led by the minister of aviation fell short of the expectations of key players across the sector.

The controversies the policies generated would have been avoided had the principles of transparency and due diligence been engaged by those packaging the projects.

The height of the confusion came with the display of superiority between the minister and AMCON, another government owned debt recovery organ over the packaging of another flag Cartrer, NG Eagle airline out of the rubles of the ailing Arik Air.

This again divided the various interest groups in the sector with the different groups pitching tents on the interested side.

Another major challenge that rocked and still continues to rock the sector is that of the unfavourable over 90 Bilateral Air Services Agreements (BASAs) Nigeria signed with different countries which are being used to the advantages of the foreign airlines.

The spiral effect of the bad air transport agreements was seen in the way the foreign countries turned the situation against Nigeria in the peak of the pandemic.

In the outgoing year, amidst the numerous negative crises that rocked the sector, there are however some positive events that occurred which relatively restored hope in the faces of Nigerians.

One of these is the sudden reawakening of the government to the reality of the international aero-politics against it, its business and its sudden decision to challenge the countries at the forefront of this international embarrassment.

One of the most cheering news of the year was the manner the government confronted the hostile attitude of the UAE government towards Air Peace, a Nigerian flag carrier which was made to face difficulty in flying to the Arab country.

The federal government had in return paid Emirates Airlines back in a similar coins until the two countries resolved the issues.

This has greatly sent a signal to other countries of the world that Nigeria in the coming year will not be a dumping ground.

It is hoped that in year 2022 that government will be more interested in things that will genuinely move the sector forward and not a case of meddling with what will not be of national interest.

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