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Stakeholders propose a merger of 11 domestic airlines.



Stakeholders propose a merger of 11 domestic airlines.

Nigeria’s aviation was scrutinised yesterday, with stakeholders concluding that past aviation ministers failed the industry.

Aviation stakeholders converged on Lagos for the second quarter Brunch Business Meeting (BBM) with the theme, “Agenda for a New Administration: Increasing the Numbers”, organised by the Aviation Safety Roundtable Initiative (ASRTI).

This is just as the Air Peace Chairman, Mr Allen Onyema, the lead speaker at the event, disclosed how the airline recorded 18 bird strikes in 2023, with each incident costing the airline $3.2m to fix.

On his part, the President of ART, Dr Gbenga Olowo, proposed two new airlines from the 11 scheduled carriers, saying all the carriers operate with just 108 aircraft, which is not up to the size of Ethiopian Airlines with 144 aircraft.

Former Senator and Chairman of Kings Airlines Limited, Musa Adede, said, “I have been in the Senate since 1999, and I can tell you the last two aviation ministers have failed woefully.”

He declared that with his experience in the industry in the past 30 years, things have gone from bad to worse, saying the industry requires a total overhauling.

According to him, the forum provided an opportunity to unveil a comprehensive roadmap to the new administration “So that Nigeria can rejuvenate the aviation sector to contribute to GDP by focusing on aviation infrastructural development, safety enhancement, airline industry support, human capital development, sustainable aviation and stakeholders’ engagement.”

The aviation stakeholder said the sector is beset with financial problems for the operators and psychological, mental and physical stress.

He tasked all the operators to “re-examine” themselves and carry out a thorough in-house cleaning.

Chairman Air Peace, who faulted the recent figure released by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) indicating that airlines delayed 61 per cent of flights operated in the first quarter of 2023, insisted that most delays were not the airlines’ fault.

He said the airline alone posted 18 bird strike incidents, which grounded its aircraft, adding that two bird strikes were recorded in one day in Benin City, Edo State.

According to him, each engine would cost them $3.2m to fix because the authorities failed to carry out their responsibility of sending the birds away.

He decried the supervising ministry’s interference in the operation of agencies, saying the development is dragging back the industry.

“Take a trip to Abuja; once you leave Lagos, we are dumped in one small room, and everybody has a small counter for checking. So if your plane lands, sometimes you don’t even see a place to park,” he said.

Onyema said when delays occur from early morning flights, airlines operate into airports without night flying operations before rescuing passengers going to Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt, which have night flying facilities.

He also said Nigeria would have helped the domestic carriers if there was local maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility to maintain their aircraft, saying about nine of his aircraft are currently abroad for maintenance, which gulps millions of dollars.

He said that he had equally applied for land from FAAN to commence building an MRO in 2016, but sadly, that has not come to pass despite the high cost attached to the land.

Olowo, who handed over to the new ART President, Air Commodore Ademola Onitiju (rtd), after completing his tenure, said the only solution to airlines’ failure in Nigeria is a merger.

He said, “Our eleven airlines with a total fleet of 104 aircraft is less than the one controversial Ethiopian Airlines (ET) who parades 144 aircraft in its fleet, for example.

“Tell me, competing out there will be a herculean task without collaboration, cooperation and or merger?

“Merger was successful in banking and should be successful in aviation, dwelling on fleet size rather than share capital.

“On Time Performance (OTP) of Nigeria, airlines are woeful and deplorable with an average of 61% delay (except Ibom, 30%) yet very far below the acceptable world average.”



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