Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika

After 35 years of the last amendment in 1986 to the ground handling rates in Nigeria, succour has finally come the way of ground handlers as the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA through the Ministry of Aviation approved a safety threshold charges for handlers.

With this approval, NAHCO SAHCO, PAHCOL and Swissport Handling Company, can now charge the same handling rates as their counterparts in the sub-African countries.

The new rates are to commence October 1, 2021 for international carriers and January 1, 2022 for domestic operators.

The rates approved are between $1,500 and $5,000 (passenger and cargo flights) for handlers for a narrow and wide body aircraft, respectively, while for domestic operators will now pay between N20,000 and N70,000, depending on the aircraft type.

The aircraft type are: Narrow body aircraft include Boeing B737, Airbus A320, ER 135 and ATR, while wide body aircraft are B767, A330, B777, B747 and B787.

The approval for the new charges was communicated to all foreign and local airlines accountable managers and country managers in a circular signed by the Director General, NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu dated September 6, 2021.

The circular with the subject: “Safety Threshold Ground Handling Charges,” read in part: “All stakeholders are invited to note that the new ground handling rates for international and domestic operations will become effective on 1st October, 2021 and 1st January, 2022, respectively.

DG NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu

“All stakeholders are directed to ensure full compliance with the safety threshold ground handling charges. Any change to these charges must be done in formal consultation with and approval of NCAA. Please be guided accordingly.”

The Chairman, Aviation Ground Handling Association of Nigeria, AGHAN, Mr. Olaniyi Adigun said, the Minister of Aviation and the NCAA have saved them from extinction, adding that, the income derived from their operations with the current rates was no longer sustainable.

AGHAN Chairman, Olaniyi Adigun

“Dollars have gone up and these equipment are foreign; 80 per cent of our training is foreign and to cap it all, aviation industry is global. Low control is global anywhere in the world; the same training and requirements for Africa and anywhere in the world. Most of what we do require dollars and for you to even operate in this sector, you must be certificated, which can only be achieved through training”.

According to him, with this new development, the handlers would be able to provide quality, efficient and safe service delivery to our clients and compete with any service provider and gradually acquire modern equipment that can facilitate handling.

“If the industry is booming, more foreign investments will be encouraged to come in and participate. The more we have investors, the more capital we have for the country. So, it’s a win-win situation in terms of having quality service delivery; to the government, it will be able to derive more revenues from the sector”.

“Just as we all know, the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, affected government revenues. We all know that the Federal Government through its agencies get 5 per cent from our annual revenue. Before the new regime, an operation that cost $4,000 elsewhere, we were doing it at $400. At $4,000, the government’s 5 per cent is about $200 and that is what Ghanaian government gets for instance, while the Nigerian Government is getting just $20. Look at the disparity. That is a lot of capital flight out of the country”, he added.
“With the old regime, government was losing money, the service provider was losing money and with this, we could not attract quality staff, carry out efficient training. But, right now, we are on the right track”.

Mr. Ahmed Bashir, Vice Chairman, AGHAN, noted that, the new rates would ensure stability and financial stability for the handlers and would lead to more employment creation and increase in staffers welfare

“We will be able to recruit more Nigerians and increase the welfare of our staff.  It will also ensure that we have better and modern equipment, develop our capacity. We will be able to initiate modern trainings and all these are cost effective. And, some of the training are not even conducted here in Nigeria”.

“Just as we all know, aviation is internationally regulated and not local. You have to consistently acquire new knowledge and ideas so that our personnel can be able to compete all over the world. All these are tailored towards ensuring safety in the industry”.

Bashir said, this approval was worth commending after 35 years of the last amendment, saying that, the Minister of aviation and the NCAA should be applauded for this feat.

“The hold rates have been on since 1986, which is about 35 years ago and it has remained static ever since. You can imagine that. And for the minister to have supported our course, it shows he loves the industry and he has been able to save the sector from collapse and history will never forget him as someone who has initiated sustainability and financial health of the sub-sector”.

“The Minister of Aviation’s vision has always been a safer sky for Nigeria and to ensure that safety, the ground handlers are integral part of that vision. Everything that you see that we have achieved, we give credit to the minister because the minister has acted as a father to all. It is through his vision that we achieved stability in the industry. He has brought in innovative ideas that helped to transform the industry”.

He thanked the regulator, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for reviewing the current safety threshold handling rates and ensure compliance with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the International Civil Aviation Organiusation (ICAO) Safety and other international bodies.

“So, in order to ensure that the ground handlers are financially stronger and remain as a critical component of the industry, NCAA tried to ensure that the industry doesn’t collapse. The fact is that without the ground handlers, NCAA will also be out of business”.

“We will like to thank NCAA for their leadership, which supported and encouraged and supported us. Their leadership actually ensured that economic regulation is about the ground handling companies. So, we have to be financially stronger to be able to recruit and retain quality manpower. The sub-sector is about the manpower and equipment”.

AGHAN also appreciated stakeholders in the industry for speaking up for the ground handlers.

“We want to thank the managements of the ground handling companies who supported and trusted us to be able to go this far. Also, we want to laud the various critical stakeholders and professionals in the industry who actually craved for this safety threshold handling charges. For every project you want to embark upon, you need to get the strategy right”.