By Louis Ibah
US aircraft manufacturer, the Boeing Company, yesterday, announced it was partnering with SpringFountain Infrastructure Nigeria Limited to provide a credit facility that would assist in the lease of aircraft by local airline owners in Nigeria.
The two firms are also partnering to float an aircraft Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) as well as spares logistics, supply and aggregated services solutions centres in Nigeria.
Speaking yesterday at the agreement signing ceremony in Lagos, Executive Director of SpringFountain Infrastructure, Mrs. Tokunbo Fagbemi, said the two parties would be investing about $20 billion in the deal. She said the Boeing aircraft leasing deal was the first of its kind in Africa and that it will create a window for Nigerian airline owners to access about 200 Boeing aircraft in the next 20 years. Also speaking, Sales Director for Boeing Company in West and Central Africa, Mr. Larry Tolliver, said they have been working with SpringFountain in the past two years to perfect the deal. “The partnership with this Nigerian company is a demonstration that Boeing is ready to carry along its Nigerian customers in the manufacturing of aircraft,” he added.
Indigenous operators including Air Peace Limited described the aircraft leasing window as one of the best things to happen to Nigeria, given the hurdles operators face in their bid to get aircraft from foreign lessors.
Fagbemi said local airlines were short of aircraft in their fleet and that with a current estimated passenger traffic of 19 million, which is projected to increase to over 44 million, local airlines would require more new airplanes to match travellers’ demand.
Air Peace Chairman/CEO, Mr. Allen Onyema, who was at the event said the partnership between Boeing and SpringFountain Infrastructure would greatly boost the growth of Nigeria’s aviation industry.
He said the partnership will also assist in building local capacity in diverse fields ranging from piloting, aviation engineering, aviation economics and aviation law. To enable the deal sail through smoothly, Fagbemi said the Federal Government would also need to create the right investment environment.
“Government should provide exemption from certain charges such as Customs duties and grant us pioneer status to create a one stop shop for the processing and issuance of all necessary permits and licenses,” she said.
“The project will need fiscal support from the government. The importation and clearing of aircraft spares will need to fall under a different customs clearance regime. We will need a special visa regime and dedicated immigration procedure for crew and workmen in the aviation industry. Airport concession fees and other charges will need to be waived or differed for these brand new aircraft and especially for the MRO bound aircraft.
“Freight cargo handling and freight cargo handling procedure will need to be improved. Cargo clearance procedure will need to be harmonised especially for spares as domestic cargo,” she added.