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Nigerian Airlines struggle amidst economic turmoil

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Nigeria’s airline operators have lamented significant obstacles hampering business operations, including forex scarcity, soaring Jet-A1 prices, and aircraft acquisition challenges due to country risk.

According to airline representatives, the current situation poses an existential threat as aircraft awaiting maintenance remain grounded due to forex shortages. This results in continuous equipment depletion without replenishment.

The airlines issued a stark warning that if this trend persists, the country may face a complete absence of operational aircraft for domestic services.

Professor Obiora Okonkwo, speaking on behalf of the airlines, urgently called for government intervention to prevent numerous airlines from going under.

He highlighted the instability in forex rates and the skyrocketing cost of aviation fuel, now at N1,300 per litre, as factors undermining their operational planning and creating uncertainty.

Furthermore, Professor Okonkwo, Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines, pointed out the substantial losses incurred due to the disparity in fuel prices and exchange rates.

“We are making losses on factors that are beyond our control. We are not only faced with the problem of scarcity of dollars; even the aviation ecosystem is feeling the heat. Handling companies have increased the cost of their services, airports have increased their charges and those that service the aircraft have also increased the cost of their services. The monies for these payments are coming from the passengers who are already exhausted financially,” he said.

He emphasized that beyond forex scarcity, increased costs from service providers within the aviation ecosystem further strain airline finances.

Okonkwo noted a significant decline in passenger traffic, attributing it to both economic challenges and changing social behaviours, such as preferring to send gifts rather than attending events in person.

“Passenger traffic has shrunk because even those on social engagement like weddings, burials and other ceremonies may not be inclined to spend money on flight tickets; they would rather send credit alert to those hosting the events who would appreciate such gestures. So, they pay instead of appearing in person,” he said.

The airlines seek government engagement and intervention to address the dire situation, emphasising the crucial role of air travel in economic development.

However, Okonkwo highlighted the challenge of attracting aircraft lessors due to perceived country risk, hindering fleet expansion and maintenance efforts.

He stressed the need for a special forex allocation to sustain airlines, as they require dollars for aircraft procurement, fleet maintenance, and spare parts.

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Aviation

Aviation sector to benefit from RIDF

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Aviation is set to be part of key economic drivers that will benefit from President Bola Tinubu’s proposed Renewed Hope Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF).

In a statement by Ajuri Ngelale, the fund targets strategic sectors like agriculture, transportation, ports,  energy, healthcare, and education along with aviation.

The initiative plans to inject funds into vital national projects to foster growth, bolster local value addition, generate jobs, and spur innovation.

Efficient use of low-interest loans and financing options will secure advantageous arrangements for project financing and operation.

The focus on aviation enhancement involves modernising major airports nationwide with targeted investments and infrastructure upgrades.

The statement reads, “On aviation enhancement, the focus is on the revitalization and modernization of major airports nationwide. Through targeted investments and infrastructure upgrades, major airports will undergo comprehensive refurbishment, including improvement in terminal facilities, runway expansions, and the implementation of cutting-edge technologies to enhance safety and operational efficiency.”

For agricultural infrastructure, the focus includes developing robust networks like storage facilities and irrigation systems.

In port revitalisation, the goal is to modernise facilities and attract investments to enhance Nigeria’s regional trade hub status.

“By modernizing port facilities and implementing advanced monitoring systems, the goal is to optimize efficiency, attract investments, and bolster Nigeria’s position as a regional trade hub,” the statement read.

Key road projects like Lagos-Calabar Coastal Road aim to enhance connectivity and stimulate economic growth.

Rail projects like Lagos-Kano and Eastern lines will modernise transportation networks for speed and reliability.

President Tinubu’s approval of the RHIDF absorbs the PIDF, expediting project delivery for Nigerians’ benefit.

Projects funded under the RHIDF will have a national spread, reflecting the commitment to equitable development.

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Aviation

ICAO Aviation security audit team debriefs Nigeria, indicates strong outing

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The Team Lead of ICAO Security Audit Programme, Callum Vine, announced Nigeria’s strong performance during a debrief after its Audit.

Nigeria recently concluded the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Security Audit Programme the continuous Monitoring Approach (USAP-CMA) according to a statement emanating from Director, Public Affairs and Consumer Protection, FAAN, Obiageli Orah.

The USAP-CMA aims to improve aviation security compliance by analysing Member States’ performance and implementation of security standards. It focuses on Annex 17: Security Standards and Annex 9: facilitation compliance, along with associated procedures and security practices.

The event held at NCAA Headquarters saw Vine praise Nigeria’s robust policies and agencies, acknowledging their speed in addressing identified deficiencies without complaints.

He mentioned that the full audit report would be available within 60 days, followed by a 30-day period for comments.

FAAN’s Managing Director, Mrs. Olubunmi Kuku, affirmed using the audit results as a roadmap for continuous improvement.

She urged stakeholders to collaborate closely, share best practices, and uphold the highest security standards in the industry.

The debrief was attended by Dr. Emmanuel Meribole, representing the Minister, and Captain Chris Najomo, Acting Director General of NCAA.

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Aviation

Arik Air receives Best Sustainable Airline Company award

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Arik Air has bagged the award for  Best Sustainable Airline of the Year,  2024 by the World Quality Alliance and Quality Standards Journal.

The airline’s Public Relations and Communications Manager, Mr Adebanji Ola, disclosed this in a statement made available to newsmen in Lagos.

Ola said the award was presented to the airline at the National Quality Summit 2024 held on March 22 in Abuja.

According to Ola, the Award General Committee of the National Quality Order of Merit, said the award was meant to celebrate leadership innovations and creativity in quality management.

Ola noted that Dr Ovie Shaka, Vice Chairman, Organising Committee of the National Quality Order of Merit Awards 2024, explained that the award was aimed at identifying, recognising and rewarding companies.

“The award also aims at rewarding personalities and products that apply quality assurance culture and quality management best practices.”

He said the award was presented by Stanley Ohenhen, on behalf of the Organising Committee and received by Arik Air’s Director of Safety, Capt. Jide Bakare.

Ola quoted Arik Air’s Chief Executive Officer, Capt. Roy Ilegbodu, as saying that the award is another testament of the airline’s fastidious adherence to operational safety standards.

Ilegbodu said Arik Air was committed to continual improvement of the management system and operational performance.

Recall that Arik Air also won the 2023  Best In-flight Service Airline by the Nigerian Aviation (NIGAV) Award.

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