Minister, airline operators bicker over ‘hostile operating environment’

By Sanni Onogu, Abuja

Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika and the Airlines Operators of Nigeria (AON) have disagreed over who or what is responsible for alleged hostile operating environments in the aviation sector.

While the operators put the blame on the Ministry of Aviation and its agencies, Sirika asked them to look inwards.

The Minister warned the airline operators to stop pointing fingers if they desire to overcome their challenges.

The exchange between the Minister and the AON took place at the three -day public hearing on the six aviation Executive Bills organized by the Senate Committee on Aviation chaired by Senator Smart Adeyemi (Kogi West).

Sirika had reacted to claims of unfavourable business environment raised by the Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of Overland Airways, Captain Edward Boyo.

Captain Boyo accused the Aviation regulatory agencies, especially the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) of imposing exorbitant service charges on the airlines.

He noted undue taxation by NCAA in connivance with the Ministry of Aviation was responsible for high airfares while the agency was indifferent to standard and efficiency.

He warned that the local airlines were victims of obsolete legislation.

He called on the National Assembly to protect the aviation industry through relevant legislations to prevent local airlines operators from going out of business.

Boyo said: “The AON are victims of hostile environment, because of legislation that are obsolete and therefore useless.

“The Senate should ask, why are airlines dying in Nigeria? It is good that we are amending the laws with the hope that it will help the common man.

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“The local operators are being demonised as not remitting charges. What we should ask is, what is the efficiency of these agencies taking the charges, translating to high cost for travellers?

“The airlines are dying and very soon there will be no airlines left. The operating environment is hostile.”

Chairman Bi-Courtney Group of Companies, Wale Babalakin, (SAN) urged the Senate Committee on Aviation to liaise with the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters before concluding the amendment.

Babalakin insisted that certain provisions of the Bills have directly infringed on the Constitution.

He further accused the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) of conflict of interest.

Babalakin said: “Some of the provisions are an embarrassment to the Nigerian Constitution.

“You need to take the amendment to the Committee on the Judiciary and the AGF.

“FAAN can’t play a role in regulating terminals, the FAAN can’t bully the operators with regulations.

“The regulator can’t continue to be a competitor, it is conflict of interest.

“We are being oppressed and it can’t continue. He who comes to equity must come with clean hands.”

The Aviation Minister however attributed the decline in the fortunes of the indigenous airlines to poor capital outlay, business plans and governance structure.

Sirika said:” The airports must be run for profit, not charity.

“To explain why the airlines are failing are business plans and failure of their CEOs, you don’t blame their inefficiency on us.

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“They should look at their business plans. For those that have gone into extinction, check the ownership structure and business plans.

“It is not debatable. They should be critical with business plans, governance structures and capital outlay.

“Ask them about the maintenance plans for their aircrafts. Most of them miss it from business plan and governance structure, I don’t want to mention their names.”


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