By Chinelo Obogo, [email protected] 07064781119

Unpredictable government policies have been listed among the many challenges facing Nigeria’s aviation sector.   

The Public Relations Officer of the National Association of Air Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), Francis Igwe (PhD), an engineer with the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) specialising in aviation management, told  Daily Sun that unless there is stability in government policy, the sector would continue to face challenges.

Renewal of Air Operators Certificate

You know Nigeria and Africa at large has safety issues on  aviation. The frequency of the AOC and AMO renewal is dependent on the safety standards and compliances of a state. By this, I mean, for a country that has certain safety trust and standards on operators may choose to renew the AOC of their operators every five years or there about; but when the reverse is the case and so the frequency of the renewal may be increased as in the present state of the Nigeria.

However, in every renewal process, an audit is being carried out on the airliners. That is; the more the NCAA audit on them, the more safety is kept abreast. I support the request for extension of AOCs by the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON). My support is because the NCAA has improved tremendously on their safety oversight of the airlines. My only suggestion would have been that the five (5) years period should be for both the scheduled and non-schedule operators.

Safety status of domestic airlines

The shutting down of the operations of some domestic airlines in the past only goes to show that the NCAA are up and doing in their regulatory functions on the operators. Because without oversight functions, the safety issues that led to the shutting down would not have been found.

On health of the domestic airlines in Nigeria, there are numerous factors that militate against their survival, of cause I can elaborate on the factors now, though I can mention them; they are the government’s aviation, economic and diplomatic policies. Aviation policies in Nigeria are as erratic as that of the power supply. They change when there is any change in government, hence the abandonment of such policies; and some are not in favor of the operators.

On economic policies, the maintenance of most of the aircraft that operates in Nigeria are done outside the country. Spare parts supply and access to forex are the major issues the operators suffer. One operator told me that he applied for 200,000 USD to the CBN, but got about 20,000 USD. Note that this fund is for the procurement of spare parts and other maintenance related procurement. The issue custom duties on the aircraft spare parts is an economic factor that ids second to none.

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Another issue we have is the case of erratic diplomatic policies. The training of the personnel like pilots and engineers are most done outside the country. There was a case of an airline in the past whose pilots were due for simulator training, but were granted visa appointments while they are out of recurrence training.

Request for special funds window for airlines at single digit rates

Judging by history, past governments have tried doing so, but it never worked. It is either some bigger and more connected airlines benefit, while others would not. A digit loan assessment is actually difficult in Nigeria. It is only the cooperative societies that can offer such loan in Nigeria, and not the commercial banks.

Challenges facing aviation in Nigeria

In my doctorate research on aviation management which was on the impact of Air Transportation to the global economy, a case study of Nigerian aviation industry; it is very clear that our aviation industry has many problems, but for the purpose of this interview, I will classify them into: Economic/ financial policy problem, aviation policy problem and managerial problems.

On the economic/financial policy problems; to maintain an aircraft in Nigeria is very exorbitant. A C-checks I assure you, will gulp millions of dollars. In most cases, these checks are done abroad.  The training of the pilots and engineers are on the high side as well. Pilots go on their simulator recurrence training often. All these are been paid for in a foreign currency (USD and Pounds)

The monetary policy in the country is like witchhunt A dollar as at today is about N750 and even if the airlines apply to the CBN for the official rate, they won’t be given enough after many weeks and sometimes, even months.

Some aircraft roll out for maintenance are on ground more than necessary due to the fact that they are waiting for spare parts. Sometimes, these parts are being held by the Nigeria Custom for their high duties. In the past there was a proclamation by the government that there should be a waiver on the aviation related imported goods, and the implementation, some said never happened. There are lots of issues on this.

Our aviation policies are unstable. It changes with the government of the day. Each Minister makes it suitable for him and his government. I said Minister because the Authority on policy making centers on him or her. Most times, these policies are not implementable.

Then we also have managerial problem which is peculiar to the airlines management. Some airlines are been managed by non-professionals in aviation. A banker trying to manage aviation like a bank will surely fail, or an economist trying to do same. In the past, some airlines had their family friends who are unqualified in the management of their day to day activities and the result was the death of such airlines.