May 24, 2024

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AON cautions Aviation Ministry against depleting forex reserve, creating leakages in the economy

4 min read

L-R: Barrister Allen Ifeayinchukwu Onyema, Chairman Air Peace and Vice President, Airline Operators of Nigeria, AON, Elder Gabriel Gbenga Olowo, President, ASRTI, Mr Abayomi Jones, Capt. Prex Porbeni, Chairman, Linear Skyies Ltd, at ASRTI 1Q BBM, 2O22Photo Editor; Isaac Jimoh Ayodele

The Federal Ministry of Aviation has been cautioned not to further weaken the extremely fragile Naira in the foreign exchange market, and not to expose the national economy to further pillage by its decision to engage a foreign airline as a technical partner to the much-touted national flag carrier, the Nigeria Air.

Also, the ministry had been fervently urged to stop the flagrant granting of multiply entries and numerous frequencies to all manners of foreign airlines flying into Nigeria as the acts had been fingered as a precursor to various pressure on the nation’s macro and micro economy

The Airline Operators of Nigeria, AON, made the above position known to the Aviation Minister, the Federal Executive Council, FEC, and the general public, at the first quarter Business Breakfast Meeting, 1Q BBM, of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative, ASRTI, held on Thursday, both virtually and in-person at the Gulfview Hotel, Ikeja GRA, Lagos.

Air Peace Chairman and the Vice President, Airline Operators of Nigeria, barrister Allen Ifeayinchukwu Onyema, who represented the AON President, Alhaji Yunusa Abdulmunaf, made the appeal on behalf of the association, AON.

The AON argued that any foreign airline granted such a position as the technical partner would have wittingly or unwittingly been given the grandfather’s right and as such, open the nation to un-hindered exploitation which will sooner than later spell the death knell to AON members.

The Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative, ASRTI, had been chosen as a topic for discussion at its First Quarter Business Breakfast Meeting, 1Q BBM, “Economic Implications of Multiple Entry Points by Foreign Airlines into Nigeria”.

Onyema said at present the multiple entry points had brought untold hardship to local operators due to the foreign operators preventing the AON members from effectively distributing arriving and departing international passengers.

He however added a caveat that, should the government be rigidly convinced in passing that route, such prospective technical partner should be compelled to deposit a whopping $200billion to the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, as security to the business environment.

In the Aviation Minister’s remark delivered by the Secretary-General, ASRTI, Group Capt John Ojikutu, he acknowledged that multiple entries caused a capital flight from the country in spite of its tenuous means of generating adequate foreign exchange for the growth and the development of the economy.

The Minister, Hadi Sirika however expressed his notion that multiple entries would help domestic operators to blossom as the distribution of international passengers would still be theirs exclusively.

To the consternation of those with the rudiments of elementary economics, the minister acknowledged that the multiple entry points granted to foreign airlines had put pressure on the nation’s foreign exchange allocation. Yet multiple destinations still subsist in the country.

Yet, Hadi Sirika further said of multiple entries granted the foreign airlines, “It is against the Cabotage Act. It does not allow the airlines to generate much-needed revenue that would help in their growth”.

The AON however put the federal government on notice that if the government through the aviation ministry stuck to its guns on these actions unanimously agreed are inimical to their economic wellbeing, the association might approach the courts for succour.

The President, ASRTI, Dr Gbega Olowo, while welcoming members in his opening speech he highlighted that multiply entries exposed the foreign airlines to the domestic market.

ASRTI President regretfully noted that foreign airlines are gradually taking over the domestic market with continuous approvals for multiple entries for foreign airlines.

L-R: Capt. Prex Porbeni, Elder Gabriel Gbenga Olowo, President, ASRTI, Barrister Allen Onyema, Chairman, Air Peace, Capt. Titilayo Fagbejo, International Aviation College, (IAC), Ilorin, Kwara State, Mr. Andrew Okunnuga, Managing Director, Six Continent Travels Ltd. Mr. Abayomi, at the ASRTI, Q1 2022 BBM held at GolfView Hotel & Suites, GRA, Ikeja, Lagos on 31/03/22.

Olowo lamented that “the damages of multiple entries to Nigeria’s economy is humongous. Britain for instance has 21 flights into Nigeria weekly. European Unions have 43 frequencies every week in to Nigeria. Also, the Middle East has 56 flights weekly into multiple entries into Nigeria”, he volunteered

He revealed that “as it is today, we have zero participation in the international sector as an industry and the domestic sector is eroded through multiple entries into Nigeria,” Gbenga Olowo said.

He, however, assured his guests both virtual and in-person of a robust discussion that the event actually generated.

Another veteran and a guru in the teaching and practice of air transportation in nearly all its facets, Capt Prex Porbeni, identified a gross lack of patriotism among those appointed to the position of leadership in the nation’s aviation sector of the national economy as part of the industry.

He related his experience in the 1980s when Aviation Minister would just give approvals to requests he did not know much of its implications but would refuse to consult the technocrats for plausible advice.
The similar disposition he still identified had permeated decisions, pronouncements and most projects of the aviation ministry and its agencies.

Another flaw the septuagenarian identified was the lack of sanction for infractions in the industry. This he noted smacks of a lack of purposeful leadership with a target and with the resolve to achieve them.

The talk show ended on a note of no one knows what the next line of action would be as it is obvious that the ministry sets the direction whether profitable or not for the industry players and the national economy.

Without an iota of doubt, discussants and guests left with forlorn hope.

Photo Credit: Isaac Jimoh Ayodele

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