Stories by Louis Ibah
Domestic airline owners and other investors in Nigeria’s aviation industry are reporting huge loses with the shutdown of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA) for the repair on its dilapidated runway. The government had shut down the NAIA on March 8, 2019 and earmarked about N5.8billion for the project slated to be completed on April 19, 2017.
Daily Sun learnt that with only three weeks taken up out of the six weeks period slated for the rehabilitation of the NAIA runway, “there has been series of complaints from private sector investors accusing the government of compounding their already deplorable financial situation by having to completely shutting down the Abuja airport without opting for measures that would have still kept the airport partially open for business.”
Just last week, most air travelers opt to either go by road or cancel all engagements in Abuja until the airport is reopened. This was even as some local airlines scaled down their flight frequencies into the Kaduna Airport owing to dwindling passenger traffic. First Nation Airways was the first to announce it was suspending its operations into the Kaduna Airport citing low passenger patronage. Outside the early morning flights, most airline operators it was learnt are flying half filled aircraft burning fuel purchased at exhorbitant cost and also ending up incuring huge loss.
N400bn estimated losses
An aviation analyst, Olu Ohunayo, told Daily Sun that aside the direct impact of the shutdown of the Abuja airport on businesses, most private sectors operators are of the view that where the government got it wrong, was in its inability to convince more foreign airlines to fly into the alternate Airport outside Ethiopian Airline.
“The foreign airlines refusal to fly into Kaduna has negative implications for the economy. In fact, most programmes and activities billed for Abuja have either been cancelled or postponed due to the closure of the airport,” said Ohunayo, who is also a member of the Aviation Round Table (ART).
“The multiplier effect we are currently witnessing is the reduction in hotel bookings, car rental and seat bookings for point beyond Abuja. Travel agent revenue stream has naturally dwindled, considering that their highest commission comes from foreign travels with a greater percentage using the high yield upper cabin.
“Also, agents with one shop travel solution will be hardest hit with cancellation and third party refunds. Most passengers have had to reschedule their flights while other traveled with a higher cost and inconvenience. The agencies appear worse off considering that Abuja is the second busiest airport in the country. I pray we have learnt our lessons of failing to plan. All that a runway requires is surveillance and maintenance as scheduled and provided in its safety manuals and in the future .we need to adhere to it,” Ohunayo told Daily Sun.
For his part, a former Minister of Aviation, Mr. Babatunde Omotoba, projected that about N400 billion would be lost by business owners with the shutdown of the Abuja airport and the refusal of some foreign airlines to operate into the Kaduna airport during the six weeks period.
“This movement is costing us so much. Some foreign airlines have cancelled their flights to Abuja during the period. Many businesses have also shut down. I have come down to Lagos and I want to stay here for two weeks, at least. When I am going I will go by road. A lot of people have put off their trips this period and that will have huge impacts on the economy,” Omotoba said:
“An economist will look at what Abuja contributes to the GDP in a year and look at what one and half months will contribute; because many economic activities will be paralysed during this time. Nigerian airlines are going to count their losses. The number of travellers will reduce. This will have negative impact on our economy. Many who are in Abuja will be there for the six weeks; so the number of travellers will reduce. This will cost the economy hundreds of billions because a section of the economy will be shut down during this period.”
About three years ago it was projected that Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was $543 billion and it was also projected that 60 percent of this funds come from Lagos while the other cities generate 40 percent and Abuja and Port Harcourt generate higher percentage of the remaining funds.
“Let us assume that a lot of businesses will not operate fully because of the loss of production, so Abuja will lose about $1 billion during the period, which is about N400 billion. In six weeks, our economy will suffer because you should also know that some of the businesses done in Lagos are also connected to Abuja, so there will be effect of this on Lagos, in Ibadan and other places. So the closure will slow down everything. This will also shut down the routing of most flights from Abuja to other destinations.” Omotoba added:
President of the Aviation Round Table (ART), Mr. Gabriel Olowo, however said the government should do all within its power to grow the facilities in the nation’s airports to boost the local airline industry.
“It is so sad that in the last 40 years, the aviation industry in Nigeria has not been advancing. We need two strong airlines with a minimum of 50 aircraft each, but the airports are not even there, the facilities are not there,” bemoaned Olowo.
Meanwhile, following barrage of complaints by stakeholders, the Federal Government last week held a meeting with members of the Aviation Round table (ART) in Ikeja Lagos, where it tried to explain its own side of the story. Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Muhammed told the gathering that the deplorable condition of the Abuja airport runway was as a result of the neglect by the successive governments to fix the dilapidation at the initial stage when it was first noticed. He explained that there was no way the shutdown of the Abuja airport would not come with some form of inconveniences. But he noted that the government had taken extra steps to mitigate such inconveniences with the provision of free buses and train services and security for Abuja air passengers now flying in through the alternate Kaduna airport.
Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, who spoke at the event vowed to resign his appointment should contractors handling the repair works at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, fail to deliver on deadline of April 19, 2017. He however debunked claims of losses in excess of N400billion, noting that new businesses had even sprung up in Kaduna. “We can’t be losing so much as people speculate because we are also creating new businesses and jobs for Nigerians in Kaduna,’ said Sirika. He cited such new businesses to include a booming hotels and tourism business, cab and buses operators ferrying passengers daily between Kaduna and Abuja, as well as charter helicopter operators who are now making huge revenues flying passengers between Kaduna, Abuja, and Minna airports. He said the runway once completed would last for the next 10 years before it would be spoilt in such a way as to necessitate its shutdown. Sirika also explained that the choice of Kaduna Airport as an alternate airport to Abuja was based on the ease of logistics and security it would provide.
Said Sirika, “Minna is closer to Abuja, but Kaduna has a straight road where Minna doesn’t. The road in Minna is full of hills and kidnappers. It is not even straight and it will prove difficult to provide security. Kaduna has the facilities; it has enough hotels, it already has a dual carriage way that can ease movements and enable us provide security. It was the capital of Northern Nigeria and it hosted the World Cup. And that was why we opted for Kaduna instead of Minna, Jos or Kano airports.”
Medview launches Lagos-Kano-Jeddah flights
…As Arik Air extends N16, 000 promo fare
Med-View Airline has launched the Lagos – Kano – Jeddah flight operations. Managing Director/CEO of the airline, Alhaji Muneer Bankole who spoke in Kano during the inaugural flight recently said Kano being the Centre of Commerce requires more air connectivity. He said the flight would leave Lagos by 6:50 a.m and arrived Kano by 8:10 am and from there passengers would be able to connect to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.
“Kano is the home of commerce. We are grateful to be here again. We operate into Jeddah. We depart Lagos, come to Kano and we head on to Jeddah. Kano to Jeddah is about 4 hours 15 minutes. It makes all Nigerians to be comfortable and stress-free,” said Bankole.
“It is easier than going with Ethiopian Airline to Saudi Arabia. In that case, you have to get down in Addis Ababa before getting to Jeddah.”
Meanwhile, Arik Air says it has extended the validity of its ongoing N16, 000 promotional fare to cover the period of the coming Easter celebration. The special fare which enables a customer to buy a one-way ticket to any destination in Nigeria from N16, 000 was originally scheduled to end March 31, 2017.
With the extension of the promotion, customers still have the opportunity of buying the N16, 000 ticket until 17 April, 2017 for travel on or before 30 April, 2017.
Commenting on the extension, Arik Air’s Chief Executive Officer, Captain Roy Ilegbodu, said: “By extending the validity of the special fare till after the Easter celebration, we believe that our customers will take advantage of the huge savings to spend the Easter holidays with their families and loved ones.”