Restructuring The Nigerian Aviation Sector

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The Nigerian aviation sector is on its way to breaking the jinx of infrastructural decadence that had rocked the industry for decades. The Aviation Minister and her management team are striving to achieve a high standard despite the challenges facing the industry at the moment.

By Ejike Herbert

The Nigerian aviation industry may appear to have been rocking the boat following the series of crisis that had bedeviled the industry. Over the years, the quantum of deaths and mismanagement being experienced in the industry has given considerable concern to Nigerians.

Taking analysis of many plane mishaps that have almost plunged the country into unpalatable pandemonium, showed that many Nigerians have developed fear of boarding flight to different parts of the country owing to fear of unprepared demise as it has taken the lives of many prominent Nigerians. The most recent plane crash that is still fresh in the minds of Nigerians is the case of the ill-fated Dana air that took the lives of over 150 Nigerians on June 3, 2012.

Many industry watchers believe that undue negligence by the government to put a check on airline operators in Nigeria was part of what led to those unfortunate incidents. Over the years, instead of encouraging the growth of the industry, the government constitutes an impediment to the development of the sector with its unfavorable policies that are meant to serve temporary and self-serving purposes. Part of these hostile policies are the Customs duties paid on aircraft and spares, the high cost of aviation fuel, the landing and parking charges that according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) are too high and the interest rate on loans and the failure of government to provide alternative source for airlines to obtain long term, single digit credit facilities.

The most disastrous disservice done to the aviation was the liquidation of Nigerian Airways.Since the liquidation of Nigerian Airways,  aviation has not been the same and that  that was the beginning of the problems that face the industry till this moment. When Nigerian Airways was killed, so many other things died with it. Training , man power development  and the lack of stream  of manpower to replace the ageing ones seemed to be the source of the whole problem.

Nevertheless, the present administration of President Goodluck Jonathan through the Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah is doing its best to ensure that the industry regains it past glory. Nigeria’s aviation sector has witnessed a number of innovations and infrastructural development  since  inception of this administration. These innovations are as a result of government interventions, following the dark days of incessant plane crashes. During this period, the country was always in the news because of its bad air safety record. However, things have improved and sanity is gradually been restored in the industry.

The ongoing renovations, when completed, will position Nigeria at an advantage, especially in attaining the Vision 2020:20 target of being one of the world’s 20 greatest economies by Year 2020. lndeed, the aviation industry will, in  this context of this Vision, become one of the greatest foreign exchange earners and contributors to the national economy. The aviation sector contributes significantly to the growth of every economy.

If the aviation industry becomes as developed as what the present minister is striving to make it, especially in the areas of effective and efficient service delivery and self sustaining, this position will easily confer the status of a hub, not only for the West African sub-region, but also for the entire African continent, on the country.

Given the remodeling and construction of 11 airports which would be executed with a concessionary loan from China Nexim Bank in 22 years with 5 years moratorium at an interest rate of 2 per cent, and other projected measure being in place, the Nigerian aviation sector would be a new investors’ delight.

The spectacular and massive renovations going on simultaneously at major airports is a great testament to the effectiveness and commitment of the present administration to transform the industry into a virile and major contributor to the national economy, as well as greatest employer of labour. Already, the renovation and expansion of the airport terminals at Enugu, Port Harcourt and Kano are steadily progressing. But one of the obstacles towards the achievement of this laudable objective in this sector is the ageing work force factor. This was the result of many decades of negligence, especially in the area of succession planning. This has, however, been discussed at many aviation workshops and conferences around the country.

As a prerequisite for a hub in any part of the world, there must be a good, strong local domestic airline. Today, there is no strong domestic airline or national flight carrier. Therefore, the government should devise a national aviation blueprint, which would harmonise aviation activities and development across the country; thereafter reactivate the national hanger aircraft maintenance project. It is also pertinent that the government devises a means of reviving the national carrier.

 

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