12th July, 2012
For decades, the Nigerian aviation industry has been moving in circle with nothing fundamental changing about it. History in the beleaguered sector always seems to repeat itself with stunning accuracy.
A plane crashes in the country and many people are killed. The Presidency sympathises with the families of the victims and sets up a task force or a panel of inquiry to look into the immediate and remote causes of the crash and proffer suggestions for a better, safer and more efficiency aviation industry.
The panel of inquiry, after its investigation, submits its report to the presidency and a white paper is issued. Then everyone goes to sleep until when there is another plane crash, more blood and more grief. The same process then starts all over again.
For instance, after Bellview and Sosoliso plane crashes of 2005 which claimed 117 and 108 lives respectively, President Olusegun Obasanjo summoned an emergency stakeholders’ forum to deliberate on the causes pertaining to the crashes.
A presidential task force was set up and a 71-page White Paper on the report of the Dike panel was submitted to the Presidency. The report said that “poor revenue base of most local airlines had resulted in inadequate aircraft maintenance and inability to acquire new ones, while inadequate funding of the aviation agencies had been responsible for the gradual run-down of infrastructure, obsolete equipment and inadequate training of personnel.” It also made series of recommendations to improve the sector.
Sadly, six years after, these recommendations have not been implemented and the aviation industry still faces the same challenges today. A panel of inquiry was recently set up after Dana plane and public hearings were also conducted at the Senate. The recommendations of the panel are likely to be the same recommendations that were made six years ago.
As the Aviation Round Table, ART, argued yesterday, the problems and solutions in the aviation industry are well documented in several reports submitted to the presidency and only their implementation is needed.
The airlines in Nigeria are too small and too limited financially to compete with other major airlines in the world. Some airlines have only two aircraft while others can barely maintain the few aircraft that they have.
In order to maintain these aircraft and remain in business, airlines get loans from banks at very high interest rates. This is in addition to the fact that aviation fuel remain very expensive in Nigeria and customs duties to bring in spare parts remain one of the highest in Africa.
Taxes and the absence of a national hangar and national carrier even compound the situation further. There is also the dearth of manpower, the absence of an adequate aviation policy, the presence of dilapidated infrastructure and corruption.
As a solution, stakeholders had long called on the Federal Government to engage fuel marketers for an affordable aviation fuel. The establishment of a national carrier and hangars have also been advocated.
The reduction of customs duties and taxes have also been recommended and the process of appraisal of NCAA performance have also been challenged by the stakeholders.
We believe that the Federal Government must implement all these recommendations if it is serious about moving the aviation sector forward instead of setting up panels whose reports will never be implemented.