Key stakeholders in the country’s aviation industry have hailed the initiatives of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration toward re-positioning the sector for greater efficiency.
The stakeholders, who spoke in Lagos on Monday, noted that the government had brought some positive changes to the sector.
The players, including the Aviation Round Table (ART), a travel and tourism expert and a domestic airline operator, spoke against the backdrop of Buhari’s two years in office.
Capt. Dele Ore, a former President of ART, said the planned concession of major airports was a step in the right direction.
According to him, those opposing the move are doing so for “selfish reasons”.
He said the successful rehabilitation of the Abuja Airport runway on schedule was an indication that things could be done in the country with the necessary political will.
“For the first time in Nigeria, a minister put his job on the line because he believed that the runway could be delivered within the time frame and at the end of the day, he was able to achieve that.
“Today, we are celebrating the success because if he had not made that move, the Abuja airport runway was already a death trap which could have caused mishaps.
“I praise the courage of this administration in tackling the issues in the sector headlong,” Ore said.
He, however, urged the government to urgently review the Bilateral Air Service Agreements between Nigeria and other countries, noting that it was already hampering the operations of domestic airlines.
For a travel and tourism expert, Mr Ikechi Uko, the appointment of transaction advisers to facilitate the setting up of a national carrier was in fulfillment of the government’s promise.
Uko, however, urged the government to address intractable issues of high cost of aviation fuel and dearth of modern facilities at the airports across the country.
On his part, the Chairman of Air Peace, a new airline, Mr Allen Onyema, also said the timely completion of the Abuja airport runway rehabilitation had rekindled the hope of airline operators in the ability of the government to ensure safety and security at the airports.
“The timely completion of the runway is a boost to the industry.”
He, however decried multiple charges imposed on airlines by the various aviation agencies, noting that it had put many airlines out of business.
“If the taxes are not reduced, more airlines will crumble. No airline can survive this regime of multiple taxes. Currently, we pay about 37 charges.
“Although, the taxes had been in existence before this government but we are appealing to the authorities to streamline the charges as a form of support to the airlines,” Onyema said.
The Minister of State for Aviation, Alhaji Hadi Sirika, a former senator, had initiated various projects and reforms to reposition the industry.
These include the rehabilitation of the runway at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, within a period of six weeks and the ongoing plan to certify the Abuja and Lagos airports.
The government has also approved transaction advisers for the establishment of a new national carrier and the concession of the Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt airports.
Also, aviation agencies such as the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) have been restructured.