Nigerian Airlines In Emergency Landing

Nigeria’s aviation industry seems to be going through turbulence and all its four major airlines appear to be heading for a crash.

In January this year, Nigeria had four major domestic airlines: DANA Air, Air Nigeria, Aero Contractors and Arik Air.

On 10 September, Air Nigeria’s Chairman, Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim, grounded his airline and admitted that it was sick and needed corporate surgery or treatment.

“Corporations are like individuals, who naturally will get sick. The usual thing to do is to admit them in hospitals, either for corporate surgery or for treatment, as the case may be,”  Ibrahim said while announcing the demise of Nigeria’s second largest airline, second only to Arik Air.

Before Air Nigeria’s collapse, a DANA Air plane had crashed in Lagos, southwest Nigeria, on 3 June, killing everyone on board and leaving Nigeria in tears.

Its licence was suspended on 5 June and then restored on 5 September but flight operations are yet to resume and observers say mistrust may make it extremely hard to survive as no Nigerian airline had ever returned to the skies successfully after a crash.

As if the chaotic and turbulent descent of Nigerian airlines could not get steeper, there are strong indications that heavily indebted Aero Contractors Airline may soon be taken over by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, AMCON, as it has been unable to pay back its huge debts.

Aero Contractors, often described by aviation analysts, as the safest Nigerian airline, seems to be in life-support and the next management may engineer its comeback or ground it as well, adding its name to the inglorious list of about 18 other Nigerian airlines that have closed shop in recent decades.

AMCON Managing Director, Mr. Mustapha Chike Obi, recently disclosed that Nigerian airlines owe it over N185 billion, with almost all of them unable to pay back.

The last Nigerian airline, Arik Air, which is also the largest airline in the country with about 120 daily flights, is said to be in dire financial straits, with billions of debts to pay to AMCON and the country’s ailing banks and staff salaries to settle.

Staff have often complained of delays in payment of salaries, which sometimes pile over several months.

President Aviation Round Table, Captain Dele Ore, a veteran pilot and an aviation analyst, has said that until weak Nigerian airlines merge, they will not be able to compete with global airlines.

Many other commentators have warned that unless the price of aviation fuel, known as Jet A1, is significantly reduced and multiple taxes are eliminated by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria and the witch hunting of local investors such as Maevis and Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited, is stopped, the Nigerian aviation industry will continue to nose dive, especially, they say, if customs duties on aircraft spare parts continue to hit the roof.
By Simon Ateba
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