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Nigeria’s aviation getting back its rhythm



Nigeria’s aviation getting back its rhythm

In half-year 2018, aviation sector has benefitted from sound policies, commitment and great drive never seen for a long time. WOLE SHADARE writes that the sector is on the right footing



If there is one sector in Nigeria that has done well in the half year 2018, it is the aviation industry. Between 2015 and early 2017, the aviation industry in Nigeria recorded what seems to be the worst period since civil aviation started. This was occasioned by recession, which led to job losses and scarcity of foreign exchange, among others.
But one thing that has worked for the sector, which in no small measure led to stability of the industry, was the careful planning by the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi and the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, in ensuring that not too much change were made when they assumed office. This quarter has seen significant improvement and the culmination of the clear path the duo charted for the sector. Government, despite pressure refused to tinker so much with the personnel they met in the agencies, save for those that they brought into strategic positions in the sector and those they felt were going to add value to a sector as sensitive as the aviation industry.

AIB releases more crash reports
The release of six additional accident reports by the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) early this year has engendered confidence in the sector. Among the reports released was the accident involving an Associated Air aircraft with registration number, 5N-BJY, carrying the corpse of erstwhile Governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Agagu, which took place on October 3, 2013, minutes after takeoff from the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos.
Commissioner, AIB, Akin Olateru, an aircraft engineer, who has been doing excellently well since he took over as the agency and one who has restored confidence to the agency and conformed with international best practice.
His words: “When I assumed office, we met 27 accidents and serious incidents whose investigations needed to be conducted and safety recommendations issued to relevant agencies or organisations and of course, the public. We have released 10 already, meaning we have 17 left. As I speak today, we have six safety recommendations to be released anytime soon. If we release these six that I just promised, then we are going to have 11 left. But we have three accidents that recently occurred under my watch involving Dana Air and Delta Air, which we are still investigating and which I have not added to the 27 that I inherited. ”

Single African Air Transport Market
The Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), a flagship project under the Agenda 2063 of the African Union (AU), seeking to liberalise and unify the African skies was launched during the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU on 28 January 2018 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Capo Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinee Conakry, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe are signatories to the project.
A fresh twist was added to the importance of SAATM when Nigerian airlines under the aegis of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) asked the Federal Government to backtrack on the immediate implementation of the open skies programme encapsulated in the (SAATM) propounded by the African Union Heads of State and Government.

Blocked funds
It was cheery news that over $600 million foreign airlines’ trapped funds had been cleared by Nigeria. The Director-General of International Air Transport Association (IATA), Alexandre de Juniac, made the disclosure at the recently concluded IATA AGM in Sydney Australia.
He said, “We have had some recent success. The $600 million backlog in Nigeria has been cleared and we made $120 million of progress from a peak of over $500 million in Angola. I encourage the government of Angola to work with airlines to help reduce this backlog further.”
He disclosed that given the deepening economic crisis in Venezuela, a resolution appears to be unlikely in the short term.
“We are encouraged by the recent developments in Nigeria and Angola and hope other states will also move quickly to address blocked funds”, he added.

Aero MRO
Aero Contractor’s foray into aircraft Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO) excited airline operators and the sector generally. Airline operation without an efficient maintenance facility is a big drawback to a carrier. Many of the country’s airline operators travel around the world in search of available slots to carry out due maintenance on their airplanes. Most times, the amount of money spent on carrying out such maintenance checks on aircraft is almost double of those in Europe and America, yet, the most profitable airline in the world earn just 5 per cent profit annually. Several stakeholders and professionals in the sector had over the years canvassed for the establishment of a viable MRO facilities, which they said would further reduce cost of operations for the airlines especially in Nigeria where operators and other private investors claimed is hostile to business growth.

VAT removal
One of the greatest help the Federal Government did to airlines was removal of Value Added Tax (VAT) on air transport. Described as a lifeline to sustaining their operations, which has a very low life span of between 10 and 15 years, operators told New Telegraph that it is indeed a welcome development following over 20 years agitation by Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), umbrella for all operators in the country.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on June 6, 2018 signed Executive Order for the removal of VAT from “All Forms of Shared Transportation.”
The decision taken at the Federal Executive Council meeting, experts said presents a veritable opportunity for the aviation industry to immediately take advantage of the decision to expedite a White Paper to that effect. VAT on commercial air transportation is a huge departure from what obtains worldwide and an increased burden on the Nigerian travellers.

Airlines’ suspension
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has raised its oversight functions with going tough on air carriers that violated safety. Many airlines have been suspended and fined. But the high profile suspension done recently was one involving FirstNation Airways. The aviation regulatory body discovered that the airline had disregarded warnings and continued with the unauthorised and illegal operations in violation of its AOC terms and conditions of issuance.

Last line
There is no doubt, Nigeria’s aviation sector, in the half year 2018, looks good and it is hoped that administrators would sustain the tempo to make it a better year for the sector.

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