The Nigerian aviation industry may be in for a challenging time this December and January next year as meteorologists have predicted a heavier harmattan haze than we had last year. The hazy condition which characterises the harmattan causes flight delays and cancellations, with attendant inconveniences for passengers and losses of revenue to airlines. The greatest challenge, however, is with the general safety of air travel during harmattan, especially on account of the availability, or otherwise, of landing equipment that are critical to safety during the season. The frequent disruption of flights on account of harmattan, which is an annual natural phenomenon, underscores the underdevelopment of our aviation sector. Successive government investments in the sector are clearly not enough, so it is necessary to do much more if the country is to fully harness the potentials of the sector.
Just last week, President Muhammadu Buhari spoke eloquently of his determination to fix the aviation sector. We hope his government will find the political will to do this. Almost three years into the life of this administration, a comprehensive road map on how to make aviation attain its full potential in the country has not been articulated by the government and the relevant aviation authorities. In most developed economies, natural phenomena such as the harmattan are no serious issues because of their use of advanced Instrument Landing Systems (ILS), which are designed to aid visibility during landing. Although the federal government was reported to have acquired more of the ILS in July, this year, some of the local airlines in the country have been reported not to have the equipment that can work with the ILS. The way out is for our airlines not to ignore safety standards and warnings, or risk the lives of their passengers. Every effort must be made to avoid the loss of lives and incalculable loss to the economy and the nation that an aircrash would entail. It is better to have flight delays and outright cancellations than suffer avoidable casualties. The government and the airlines must save the nation from the prospect of any air mishap.
The aviation authorities have a duty to provide state-of-the-art equipment for our airports. They must also ensure that only aircraft that have the necessary safety equipment for flying and landing during the harmattan are allowed to operate during the season. There should also be timely and adequate sensitisation of air passengers to impending flight disruptions, with enough thought given to the provision of alternatives. Government and the insurance companies must come in to ameliorate some of the losses that may be suffered by the local airline operators, to reduce their desperation to fly when it may not be very safe to do so. The government and its relevant agencies should take this charge seriously.
Nigeria must not allow any air accident to take it back to the dark days of avoidable crashes.
Let government find the right investment and funding model for our aviation industry, as the capital outlay required to fix the sector may be outside its reach.
There are many successful models, even in Africa, to either copy or learn from. Our aviation sector must not be consigned to perennial under-development. This is the time to do something meaningful to move the sector forward.
Airline operators and workers in the sector are also encouraged to cooperate with government in whatever measures it eventually takes for the good of the sector. The hiccups and delays sometimes put in the way of proposed reforms are not good for the overall development of a sector that is defined by its dynamism and innovation.