By Chinelo Obogo
Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has said that scarcity of forex, devaluation of the naira and high cost of aviation fuel has contributed in plunging the aviation sector into serious financial crisis.
Speaking to the media at the agency’s office in Lagos, the Director General of NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu, said domestic airlines are contending with how to source forex for their operations, how to source fuel and the devaluation of the naira which has caused a depletion in passenger traffic and increase in flight tickets.
He however said that the relevant government ministries are working hard to ensure that the problems facing the aviation industry is alleviated.
“This is a critical period because of the rising cost of aviation fuel and it is of serious concern to us. The Minister of Aviation and the Minister of Finance are making efforts to ensure that some form of alleviation can be gotten for the airlines for the sustainability of their operations. It is truly a pathetic picture. We don’t refine Jet A1 in Nigeria and the conflict in Ukraine has brought about the sudden increase in the price. At the same time, the naira is getting devalued, so it is double jeopardy on the airlines. They get all their revenue in naira and at the same time, dollar is not even readily available. So it is creating a huge problem for the industry and what we have are facing now is a financial and economic crisis. But all the relevant government organisations and stakeholders are working very hard to resolve the matter. In all, we are ensuring that safety is priority,” he said.
Reacting to the high cost of air fare, Nuhu said if the airlines exceed a particular range, the agency would have to carry out investigation to know if the price is reasonable or if the airlines are involved in any practice that would compromise safety.
He said: “What the airlines do is that they don’t give us a fixed airfare, they give us a range in which they can operate freely. But once it gets above the upper limit, they have to notify us and we will have to do a reasonableness check on the increase in airfare to know. If we see that they have increased it, we will calculate the variables and know if it is justified. Also, when they go below the lower scale, we look at it and investigate if it is safe enough or if they are involved in any anti competition acts to drive away opponents.”
Nuhu also denied reports that Max Air has been grounded and revealed that investigations into Dana Air which was shut down for failing its financial audit is still ongoing.
“As regards Dana Air, we did the same financial audit and we came across a series of violations that were of grave concern to us. For the interest of the safety of the public, we decided to shut down the operations until the matters are resolved. Investigation is still ongoing because we want to give the airline the chance to resolve their issues. When all the issues are resolved and we are satisfied, they will resume operations but for now they would remain grounded until we review their case. However, I’m not aware that Max Air has been grounded. If Max Air was grounded, I would be the first person to know, so, nothing of such has happened,” he said.