By Chinelo Obogo [email protected] 09051862508
Nigeria’s business environment and poor airport infrastructure have been described as a sore point for the aviation industry’s growth. Aside few international airports, many of the country’s airports are not viable due to lack of sufficient infrastructure even as domestic airlines operators have urged the government to ensure that airports have the necessary infrastructure to make for profitable operations all year round.
Besides infrastructure, the nation’s aviation industry is grappling with many challenges including the astronomical rise in cost of jet fuel, forx scarcity double digit inflation, among others.
While reacting on the recent shutting of operations of Aero Contractors and Dana Air, the president of the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), Abednego Galadima, said Nigeria’s business environment has made it very difficult for airlines to thrive.
On Aero Contractors, he said: “When I learned the airline would be suspending flight operations temporarily, I was really sad because even though I am aware that the company has really been facing some difficulties like many other airlines especially as regards increase in fuel prices and the lack of aircraft, I had expected the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), to have swung into action and save the day and knowing that any temporary shutdown would have spiral effect on the members welfare, it is something that I find very difficult to bear.
“I believe that AMCON should have swung into action long before now and given the needed support to the management of Aero Contractors to ensure that they have more carriers and I also expected that the management themselves would have seen that coming and probably considered other business models if possible. But all of these revolves around money and for a company that is under receivership, you know that they are in that position not by choice. As a union, we have cooperated with the Aero management in going through the prevalent challenge. We have offered advice and have showed understanding.”
Speaking on the challenges facing airlines, he said: “Domestic airlines are going through a very difficult and challenging moment because of the economic challenges. The truth of the matter is that the dynamics of ticket pricing must be of utmost importance to them because it has been proven that as the cost of tickets rises, the volume of traffic comes down and I believe that the operators have to be circumspect in that regards.
“I am for anything that would give a lifeline to the airlines so that they can keep or members’ job running. We have always shown support to the operators as a union especially during the pandemic when we asked the Federal Government to give them some financial assistance which they eventually did when they were given N5 billion. We empathise with them and we look forward to the FG helping out in terms of giving more assistance.”
Galadima disagreed with those criticising domestic airlines for not factoring such issues like scarcity of forex and cost of aviation fuel in their business plans, saying: “It is unfair if anyone criticises airlines for not factoring forex and fuel crisis into their business plans, because it is not a normal operating environment to have acute fuel shortage. It is an abnormal business environment and instead of criticising them, they should be empathised with. No one sets out to have a business that would collapse in no time. What the government needs to do is to pay more attention to the business environment so that investors would be attracted and not giving excuses and criticising those that have even dared the operating conditions and investing their money in Nigeria.
“We need to have our refineries functioning. Other bigger airlines employ what they call hedging but you know our airlines don’t have that sort of space and resources, so it is out of the question for them. But it is something that can be explored in the days of plenty and low prices, they could store some of these products upfront. However, as long as they continue to import aviation fuel, the international price dynamics would continue to haunt us.”