24 January 2014

Nigeria: Aviation Experts Call for Three Strong National Carriers

Industry experts have called on the Federal Government to establish three strong national carriers, each having about 50 aircraft in its fleet. The experts under the aegis of Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative said this is necessary for Nigeria to realise the economic gains of the air travel sector and for the indigenous carriers to effectively compete with international airlines and benefit from the growing air travel market in the country.

The body made this known Wednesday in Lagos at a press conference and said that the country loses billions of Naira every year because it does not have its own carriers that could largely benefit from the international traffic from Nigeria, which grows at over 15 per cent every year.

Speaking at the conference, the President of Sabre Travel Network, Mr Gbenga Olowo, said the designation of three airlines as national carriers with each airline having 50 aircraft is the only way Nigerian carriers could compete with the over 27 foreign airlines that operate into the country.

Olowo said if domestic airlines must compete with foreign carriers, they need to forge consolidation by pooling resources to enhance their capacity. He observed that Nigerian airlines have low capacity and that explains why none could enter into major global airline alliances and benefit from code shares which could take passengers farther than airlines' operational destinations.

In his presentation, the former Managing Director of Nigerian Airspace Management Agency ( NAMA), Captain Roland Iyayi, canvassed a three-tier licensing structure for domestic airlines, which should be granted approval for operations according to the scope and capacity of their operations.

Iyayi said the challenges in the sector would not be addressed until government visited the policy of deregulation and liberalisation of the sector with a view to resolving the current distortions.

He said the basics of the industry has to be seriously addressed as airlines were using wrong money sourced under suffocating repayment terms to finance aircraft, which often times lead to the collapse of many airlines. He remarked that until Nigerian carriers utilise the best business plan, they would not enjoy cheap access to funding.

In his presentation, an aviation security expert, Group Captain John Ojikutu (retd), said the current threats to civil aviation in Nigerian airports might force the International Civil Aviation Organisation ( ICAO), to carry out a fresh audit of Nigerian airports.

He said Nigerian airports remain unsafe because many of them do not have security fence, although many of them have perimeter fencing.

Ojikutu also said most of the airports do not have contingency plans, as well as airport security programmes to take care of threats to civil aviation. "There is a lot of corruption in the system. It should be mandatory for every airport and airline to have its own security programme," Ojikutu added.

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