Lagos — In 2012, Nigeria's aviation sector played host to the good, the bad and the really ugly.
For the good side, new airlines came in and terminals got remodeled after 30 years of decay and neglect. For the bad, unions and industry operators had a running battle on issues and policies. One battle saw Arik Air ground its operations for about two days. And for the really ugly, three Nigerian registered airlines crashed, one killing over 160 people and leaving about 127 families devastated.
In summary, one can say that the aviation industry in 2012 was confronted by a whole gamut of issues, with some of the critical ones dealing with growth capabilities in the industry.
For instance, discussions on the Fly Nigeria policy were sustained because of its capacity to deepen Nigeria's aviation.
The managing director of Air Nigeria, Kinfe Kahssaye tipped Nigeria's aviation sector to grow phenomenally if the Fly Nigeria policy is encouraged.
The Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Plc's new cargo screening system consisting of cargo screening machine and anti-bomb equipment at the Export Cargo section of its warehouse was commissioned. The equipment, worth N68 million, was a giant leap in the fight against trans-border terrorism.
In October, the newly remodeled General Aviation Terminal (GAT) was commissioned just 11 months after demolishing the former structure. The new terminal is worth N648 million. It had not been retouched for 30 years since it was constructed.
Managing director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mr. George Uriesi, who spoke on government's drive to improve the airports after over 30 years and the capacity of the new airport said: "I want you to know that in 2011 we had 4.1 million domestic passengers in Murtala Muhammed airport of which 1.8 million used the old general aviation terminal, the capacity of that terminal was for 400,000 passengers per annum but was processing 1.8 million passengers, today I am pleased to say that this new facility can handle 1500 departing passengers at peak hours and can handle 12 domestic flight at peak hour."
Apart from that, the Kano Airport, Benin Airport, Owerri Airport and the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) Lagos are 98 percent completed.
Aviation agencies adopt the automation process in revenue collection. The Agencies mostly affected in the exercise are the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
Before now, all revenues were collected manually; leading to huge losses as a result of the leakages inherent in the manual procedure.
First Bank of Nigeria Plc, working with experts and professional bodies like IATA, SITA, and Avitech; a software provider, amongst others is to lead the collection process.
As part of safety measures, in November, the Director-General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Dr. Harold Demuren, gave airline operators six months to install Automated Flight Information Reporting System (AFIRS) on their aircraft or face sanctions.
"After the expiration of the six months, no plane would operate in the public category carrying passengers for hire. I think it is good to promote safety in the industry," he said.
He explained that each of the airline operators would have to install AFIRS, which is a safety device, with an initial down payment of $60,000.00 (N9.5 million), adding that the balance would be spread over a period of two years.
Another infrastructure provided was emergency airfield lighting on the popular 2.7 km Runway 18 Left.
After five years of flight restriction to day-light operations, the domestic wing of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, night flight operations comes alive again as the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) successfully deployed emergency airfield lighting.
Absence of the airfield lighting on the runway, for half a decade had forced the domestic airlines to land after sunset at the international wing and taxi down to their various terminals before disembarking passengers thereby burning extra fuel.
On June 2, 2012, a Nigerian registered Allied Air cargo, skidded of the runway of the Kotoka International Airport, Accra, Ghana and killed no fewer than 10 people on the ground.
Less than 24 hours after, on June 3, Dana Air aircraft, with tail number 5N-RAM crashed into a densely populated residential area of Iju-Ishaga area, Lagos state, killing all the 153 passengers and crew on board and over 10 people on the ground. It destroyed property worth millions of naira.
The crash saw FG suspending Dana's operating certificate but was restored after about five months of undergoing recertification process. Dana would not be flying just yet, until it pays the insurance claims due to victims of the ill-fated air crash.
On October 25, 2012, the governor of Taraba State, Danbaba Suntai, was badly injured along with five others in a plane crash in the outskirts of Yola, Adamawa State.
The governor flew the Cessna 208 aircraft himself, crashed close to NNPC depot, as he tried to bring the plane to land at the Yola International Airport, which was still 38 kilometres away.
In March, Arik Air temporarily suspended all flight operations between Lagos, Nigeria and Johannesburg, South Africa in protest of South Africa's discriminatory policies against Nigerians.
The decision to suspend the daily B737-800 service between the two financial hubs of Africa was taken due to the dispute between international airline operating into Johannesburg and the Port Health Authorities over Yellow Fever documentation being presented to authorities at Oliver Tambo International Airport.
Many of the Nigerian passengers were detained and refused entry into the country. The Port Health Authorities cited reasons of incorrect or unrecognised batch numbers on the documentation which is mandatory proof before entrance into the country. It resumed after the rift was bridged.
Also on March 25, Arik Air suspended its daily service between the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and London, Heathrow Terminal 4.
Arik Air said it was compelled to suspend its services on the route following the inability of the UK and Nigerian governments to come to agreeable terms on the 2008 Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA).
On September 20, Arik Air flights from Lagos were grounded by labour unions over unpaid dues to them. They alleged that the airline owes NAMA, FAAN, NCAA, all federal government aviation agencies various sums running into billions of naira.
Med-View Airlines, the newest entrant into the industry, commenced operations in November. Med-View Airline's commencement of operations saw a ray of hope in the industry that had only three functioning airlines.
Med-View flies into Abuja and Port Harcourt from Lagos.
Also in July, Lagos became the 83rd destination in Etihad Airways' global network and the return flights will create a new link between Nigeria, Africa's third largest economy and the United Arab Emirates.
Etihad Airways started six flights a week service between the airline's Abu Dhabi home base and Lagos.
World number one aircraft manufacturer, Boeing of USA agreed to collaborate and partner with the federal ministry of aviation to reposition the sector as the reference point on all aviation matters in Africa through a systematic approach that will enhance and sustain the nation's safety record, develop the industry as the hub on the continent and reposition the industry as the main engine of growth for the nation's economy.
This declaration was contained in an 8-Point Programme of Action between Boeing and the aviation ministry which was brokered by a team of Nigerian officials on The Investors' Roadshow to the US led by the Minister, Princess Stella Adaeze Oduah and top management of Boeing Corporation of USA.
Also, the US Citibank, the Federal Airport Administration and the Department of Transportation pledged to support the various phases of the implementation of the ministry of aviation's proposed Aerotroplolis project, promoted for the first time in 2012.