Unlocking aviation sector will be disastrous ― Senate

• As aviation union leaders threaten strike, demand bailouts

Opening of the Nigerian airspace for flight activities in the aviation sector in the country may come with lethal consequences, the Senate has said.

The concern by the Senate is the outcome of the meeting with leaders of the unions in the aviation industry.

The meeting was led by the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers to the Senate Committee on Aviation chaired by Senator Smart Adeyemi (Kogi West).

The union leaders also sought the support of the government in the form of bailouts to the sector before opening full flight operations.

They said the failure of such intervention in the sector would lead to a strike.

The Federal government had earlier fixed Sunday, June 21, 2020, for the commencement of domestic flights operations in five major airports across the country after about 75 days of lockdown in curtailing the spread of the virulent coronavirus pandemic.

However, Senate Committee on Aviation after being briefed by Union leaders urged the federal government to suspend opening of the airways for now.

Senator Adeyemi (APC Kogi West), said the issues raised by the union leaders are serious especially on safety making it imperative to postpone unlocking the Airports.

His words:” As submitted by the key players in the sector, many of the Pilots have lost currency and needed to be re-certified, Certificates of Airworthiness of most of the aircraft have expired, most of the workers are owed salaries or on half salary, since the lockdown began in March.

“These are serious issues directly connecting to safety and security aside required intervention that must be made by the government in the form of bailouts for the operators.

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“Added to this, is the strike action being threatened by the Aviation workers and since it better to have strike actions in the sector by aggrieved workers than a crash, there is need for government to tarry a bit on the plan unlocking of the sector this Sunday”, he said.

Former Minister of Aviation, Senator Stella Oduah (PDP Anambra North), concurred with Adeyemi and the Aviation stakeholders on the need to suspend unlocking of the sector for now.

Leaders of various unions in the Sector like Comrade Galadima Abednego, the National President of National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, Comrade Ilitrus Ahmadu, National President of Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria and Comrade Nnamdi Hector, the General Secretary of Joint Aviation Trade Union Forum, had in their submissions, painted a gloomy picture of the sector and imminent danger of restarting it this Sunday.

Comrade Abednego in his submission told the Committee members that many of the Pilots have lost their currency as a result of the lockdown and each of the Pilots requires $30,000 for re-currency or re-certification in the face of none payment of salaries.

“Most of the airlines have either disengaged their pilots during the lockdown or not able to pay them full salaries, treating us as modern-day slaves

“Therefore, before restarting the sector, pilots and Aircraft must be re-certified for safety and security, which have not been done.

“Aside that, many of the Airlines need urgent financial intervention to remain afloat, the very reason, the government needs to give out bailouts to the operators “, he said.

Buttressing this point a Comrade Ilitrus Ahmadu of the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, said restarting the sector now would be risking disastrous outcomes as many of the workers are hungry and angry due to none payment of salaries.

According to him: “Even federal government-owned agencies in the sector like Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), is involved in the none salary payment to workers.

“Those that are paying since the lockdown, are either paying half or quarter salary to their workers.

“There is also need for government to subsidise Aviation fuel and even the Airports need to be properly prepared in terms of fumigation as well as required protocol for health and safety”.

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