From Fred Itua, Abuja 

Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines (UNA) has called on the Federal Government to leave a legacy by providing a window of special funding for the aviation sector operators.

He made the call in Abuja, yesterday, at a retreat organised by the management of United Nigeria Airlines to mark its two years operation in the aviation industry.

The retreat, with a themed: “Positioning United Nigeria for Value Creation and Retention,” was organised for the management staff of the company.

Okonkwo said the call for provision of window of special funding for operators in aviation became necessary given its essential duty nature and its growing contribution to the Nigerian gross domestic product (GDP).

He said: “We are just asking for a special funding window that should be of a single digit and that is easily accessible, not necessarily on paper, but it is not accessible.

“We still believe this government has done a lot for the aviation industry, though, more needs to be done and we think the bigger legacy that this government will leave for the aviation industry is to ensure the operators survive. No operator should go under, rather let there be new operators in the business of aviation.”

He said the indigenous airline operators have been very patriotic and contributed immensely to growth of the nation’s GDP.

“We are very patriotic Nigerians, who have contributed so much to the GDP of the nation, giving employment, it is a sector that I advise this government and in coming government to take very seriously.

“Because if properly harnessed, it will be a great source of foreign exchange for the country, especially, if the local operators should be empowered , this industry, we believe remains a critical and essential industry that should be treated are such.

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“This industry cannot survive further at the regular commercial rates, we know there are privileges given to sectors like agriculture and others, aviation should be considered also,” he said.

According to Okonkwo, the airline transportation required a special attention.

“If this is done, I have no doubt the operators will be stronger and further render better services to the people,” he said.

He emphasised further that there was need for government to consider a special funding for the sector operators, saying it was a win-win situation for both government and the operators, and ultimately for the good of Nigerians.

“This is one sector that pays the government as they receives their own because on every ticket that is issued, all agencies of government have their own.

“It creates high level, high powered employment, high skilled workers that pay good income tax to the government, and so, this is one of the sectors that should be taken seriously and the operators are happy to work out all the new arrangement with the government.

“If this capital are made available, the individual airlines will access it as par their needs and then capitalise individually, because there is a capital you should have as a domestic operator and the required capital if you are going international or regional routes.

“So you can imagine, a situation where you go to the bank today and access naira loan at the rate of 25 to 30 per cent and then you go back to the foreign exchange window and buy it at the rate of N750, you just basically operate for notting,” he said.

Okonkwo said the United Airlines management was committed to further improving on its performance going further despite the challenges experienced in the past years.