By Gabriel Agbeja
As 2023 draws to an end, it is gladdening that there was no civilian plane crash recorded. This is noteworthy for a country that used to witness such mishaps at intervals.
In the aviation sector, safety is the ultimate.
In spite of the success story, some other challenges persist. Experts and airport users say the state of infrastructure at the airports need to improve.
In 2023 many airlines groaned under high operational costs which have stifled their expansion.
Flight delays and or cancellations, poor customer care, epileptic cooling system, and conveyor belt issues, poor funding, and insecurity are among other challenges experienced in the sector.
Some of these challenges pose a major threat to the smooth operations of the airports and hinder them from handling certain services.
Recently, Mr Musa Nuhu, the Director-General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that many airports cannot handle night flights because of some of the highlighted challenges.
“All manners of security risks including kidnapping, robbery and others are evolving rapidly in many parts of the country.
“The evolving security challenges make night operations dangerous because many airports, by reason of construction and operational requirements are located mostly on the outskirts of towns’’, he told NAN.
Some stakeholders argue that aviation should not be seen as a mere sector but as a business model capable of generating revenue for those operating in it.
They say that it must be made competitive with the required infrastructure on ground to make the business thrive.
An aviation expert, Olumide Ohunayo, Nigeria has the highest number of domestic airlines in Africa, not by number of aircraft but by registered airlines.
“In the number of equipment, we are behind; we have the highest attrition rate. We have crossed the ICAO registration process, our airlines are IOSA certified.
“We have the highest attrition rates, as our airlines are not viable out there. Those operating are yet to obtain profit margin. We have been ascent on the international routes despite numerous BASA in place.
“We have increased the number of airports in the country over the years, although most of them are under used because of the limitation of sunset airport policies which has reduced usage“, the Vanguard quoted him as saying.
BASA is an air transport agreement between two countries that allows designated airlines to operate commercial flight, covering transportation of passengers and cargoes.
To achieve that objective, the chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation, Sen. Buhari Abdulatif, says it is important for the Federal Government improve aviation business environment to make it attractive to foreign and local investors.
Abdulatif, told a retreat organised by the Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace Development recently at Warri, Delta State that government should address the issue of high cost of aviation fuel and other operation logistics.
The Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Mr Festus Keyamo, said the government is conscious of the need to upgrade the sector to make it the hub of air travel in Africa.
According to him, the aviation industry is a main key for sustainable growth and development of all other sectors in the Nigerian economy.
He said the federal government was ready to intensify efforts through Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) to tackle the challenges militating against the industry.
Keyamo said his priority agenda would be fine-tuned into actionable programme and projects by all department and agencies under the ministry.
“ These agenda are: to ensure strict compliance with safety regulations and continuous upward movement of Nigeria’s rating by the ICAO.
“Others are support for the growth and sustenance of local airline businesses whilst holding them to the highest international standards in the aviation industry, and improvement of infrastructure in the aviation industry.
“It also includes the development of human capacity within the industry and optimising revenue generation for the federal government, “ recent media reports quoted him as saying.
In the coming years, stakeholders in the industry expect the federal government to also leverage international agreements and instruments to stimulate growth in the nation’s aviation industry.
“Government must direct the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to monitor closely the foreign exchange earnings on commercial aviation including the earnings on Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA)“ says retired, Group Capt. John Ojukitu, Secretary General of Aviation Round Table, in a media interview.
Some operators in the sector canvass the review of BASA to enable government identify areas that need improvement and renegotiate such terms.
“Currently, the multiple entry points and frequencies of foreign airlines are commercially disadvantageous to Nigerian airlines and do not achieve fair reciprocity“, says Nick Fadugba, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), African Aviation Services.
Fadugba who is also the Chairman of the African Business Aviation Association (AfBAA) said this during a webinar.
As 2024 approaches, stakeholders expect that the challenges of the past years including underutilisation of airports, dearth of professionals, financial instability leading to bankruptcy of airlines would be addressed.
Doing these will enable the sector fly at the right altitude. (NANFeatures)
News Agency of Nigeria