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AVIATION INDUSTRY TO ENJOY TWO-PRONGED PALLIATIVES FOR FAST POST COVID-19 RECOVERY – SIRIKA

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*As NAMA Boosts Its Search And Rescue Capacity With New Equipment

Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika has said following the losses suffered due to the closure of the airports for about three months, businesses in the aviation sector will be given opportunity to access a two-fold palliative from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Ministry of Finance and National Planning.

The minister who spoke in Abuja yesterday explained that the ministry was working on a two-pronged palliative for the sector.

“There are ones that we are organising through Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and that one is not for airlines alone. It is for the aviation industry, which includes travel agents, ground handling, catering, and of course, the agencies.

“So, the palliative is total. We are organising with CBN and it has been approved. They will apply for loan and the loan will be at five percent from 2021.

So, there is a template on how much they will apply for each business in aviation. So, everybody involved in the air economy is being looked out for in these palliatives.

Aviation Minister, Senator Hadi Sirika


He explained the second form of palliative would be “the one coming from the government through the Ministry of Finance and National Planning”. This, he however revealed, is still being worked out and would be made known “soon”.

Speaking further on the preparedness for flights resumption, the minister emphasised that aides to VIPs and other non travellers would not be allowed into the terminal building.

He said: “President Muhammadiu Buhari has approved the hitherto big men especially military men, ministers, NASS members, Judiciary, and governors are culprits in this. All their aides that are not traveling will not be permitted into the terminal building.”

Sirika said his ministry has given approval to Murtala Muhammed International Airport and Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport to commence domestic operations tomorrow.He explained that the approval was given after both airports passed the safety tests.

As part of plans made to curb the spread of COVID-19, the minister also disclosed that the last row in the cabin would be reserved and used as isolation space in case anybody exhibits COVID-19 symptoms while the flight is on.

He explained that cabin staff have been trained to carry out necessary precautions and protocols in case of any emergency.

Also, food or any form of refreshment will no longer be served onboard to reduce the level of contact between passengers and cabin staff.

On the seating arrangement, he said: “To maintain safe flight, civil aviation has ensured that the air within the cabin is filtered and circulated. Once you are in the aircraft, if there is space, we will space it and if there is no space, we will sit normally.

Because the wearing of masks and other protocols are all backed by science to ensure that we are safe, so also, our decision is backed by science and findings.

“Risk of contamination is highly reduced when you are in the cabin. As the cabin air is coming down into the cabin, it washes from up, down to the bottom and we are mostly facing front while sitting. Because we are all facing one direction and the airflow is from up to down and because of that, the chances of the viruses and bacteria gaining way to you are reduced.

“The air will be circulated about 30 to 35 times within one hour. So, it is safe to say that no matter how we sit, from the scientific viewpoint, we are safe in the aircraft cabin.

In another development, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) has procured sophisticated search and rescue equipment to boost its aeronautical search and rescue capability across the airspace.

Its Managing Director, Captain Fola Akinkuotu, who made this known, said the equipment were being distributed among the nation’s rescue coordination centres in Lagos and Kano and Rescue subcentres in Abuja, Port Harcourt, Maiduguri, Enugu, Ilorin and Sokoto.

This includes plotting as well as communication facilities, medical supplies and International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) documents.

According to Akinkuotu, the plotting equipment include workstations for digital plotting and topographical maps for manual plotting.

The communication equipment, he added, include very high frequency (VHF) radios, high frequency (HF) radios, megaphones as well as Search and Rescue dedicated satellite telephones which can work outside a network area.

He listed others to include ICAO documents , IAMSAR Manual Volume 1,2 and 3 as well as Annex 12 Search and Rescue Preparation Manual.

Other items procured include multifunctional photocopiers, laptops, printers, professional torchlights, status boards, computer desktops and personal locator beacons.

Speaking on this development the Managing Director of NAMA Capt. Fola Akinkuotu said the agency took steps to procure the equipment in order enhance its preparedness and efficiency in Search and Rescue coordination in the event of any occurrence, especially given that the airports were about to be reopened to commercial activities.

“For instance the workstations which came with software applications for digital and faster plotting will aid our personnel in precisely locating where an incident or accident occurred,” he said.

Akinkuotu also revealed that in addition to the facility upgrade, the agency recently recruited experienced Search Mission Coordinators to be on 24 hours watch at both the Rescue Coordination Centers and Rescue Subcenters, saying that dedicated telephone numbers and email addresses of the above Search and Rescue centers have been published in the Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP).

“So, having beefed up the capacity of Search and Rescue unit at the two Rescue Coordination Centers and at the six Rescue Subcenters in the country, NAMA is more prepared than ever before in terms of human capacity as well as equipment upgrade.

“In the last few years the agency has trained different categories of critical personnel both in Nigeria and outside the country in Search and Rescue Coordinator courses in line with ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs),” the NAMA boss said.

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Aviation

Airline Operators Suspend Planned Withdrawal of Flights

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The body in two statements issued between Friday last week and today, hinged their decision on the high cost of aviation fuel popularly called Jet A1 at N700 per liter.

The decision to suspend the planned flight disruption according to the AON is government assurance to wade into the matter with a view to finding lasting solution.
“AON hereby wishes to notify the general public that the earlier announced shutdown of operations on May 9, 2022 is hereby suspended in good fate (sic) pending the outcome of hopefully fruitful engagement with government”.

Before the suspension over five airlines had renounced their participation in the planned disruption of flight operations tomorrow.

Reacting to AON’s suspension, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika in a statement applauded the body for heeding government’s call.
He says, the Ministry has always made conscious efforts to assist members of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), some of which includes facilitating a meeting between the Association and Mr. President, during which the Association got several concessions, including duty-free importation of aircraft, engines, spare parts and components.
“It should also be recalled that members of the Association were also considered for, and given Bail-out funds to the tune of N4 billion during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that they remained afloat.  This was without prejudice to the fact that most of them were heavily indebted to Aviation agencies (as they still are)”.

The statement which was signed by the Minister’s Special Assistant on Public Affairs, Dr James Odaudu added that, in the past efforts were made to ensure the operators get forex to cater to their operations from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN as well as on the vexed issue of aviation fuel.

“The Honourable Minister at various times personally took members of the Association to engage with Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to sort out issues of access to Foreign Exchange (FOREX) for their operations, and also the NNPC to exploit ways of ensuring the availability of Aviation fuel (JET A1) through importation or from the major Marketers”.

The Minister also assured foreign airlines operating in the country that all logistics and services for their operations remain in place as usual and that no disruptions whatsoever should be envisaged.
He added that, as a government, reiterated it commitment to the continued growth of the aviation industry where airlines and other service providers operate in a profitable and competitive environment.

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Aviation

Flight Shutdown: We’ve Never Abandoned Airline Operators- Aviation Ministry

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…. Commends Some Airlines for Opting Out of Planned Action

In reaction to the insistence of the Airline Operators of Nigeria to carry out the threat to withdraw flight services from Monday, the Ministry of Aviation has explained that it has always acted to protect the interests of their members, even as it has clarified that the Association was not planning a strike against government.

The position of the Ministry was contained in a statement by the Special Assistant to the Minister of Aviation, Dr James Odaudu released to newsmen Sunday evening.

Full text of the statement:

“From the time the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) issued notice of withdrawal of flight services as a result of rising cost of Jet A1 (Aviation fuel), and in spite of the initial statement by the Ministry detailing efforts to address the knotty issue while soliciting more understanding from AON, enquiries have continued to flood in with some under the erroneous impression that the planned withdrawal of flight services was directed against the government.

“We wish to state that the decision of the Association is purely a business one as they are private businesses reacting to market forces while appealing for government interventions to enable them carry on with their operations.

The Ministry has always made conscious efforts to assist and promote the operational interests of AON, some of which includes facilitating a meeting between the Association and Mr President, during which it got several concessions, including duty-free importation of aircraft, engines, spare parts and components.

“The Honourable Minister at various times personally took members of the Association to engage with Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to sort out issues of access to Foreign Exchange (FOREX) for their operations, and also the NNPC to explore ways of ensuring the availability of Aviation fuel (JET A1) through importation or from the major Marketers at affordable prices.

“It should also be recalled that members of the Association were also considered for, and given Bail-out funds to the tune of N4 billion during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that they remained afloat. This was without prejudice to the fact that most of them were heavily indebted to Aviation agencies (as they still are).

We believe that members of the Association are patriots who have continued to bear the brunt of unfavourable global oil market dynamics for which we salute their doggedness.

“It is gratifying that members of the Association have started reviewing the decision to withdraw flight services from tomorrow, with Ibom Air, Green Africa Airlines, Arik, Dana and some others having given indications that they will carry on with their normal flight schedules. We hope and believe that a few hesitant members will consider the dire implications of the planned action for businesses and individuals and review their decision likewise.

We also wish to assure foreign airlines operating in the country that all the requisite logistics and services for their operations remain in place as usual and that no disruptions whatsoever should be envisaged.

“As a government we reiterate our commitment to the continued growth of the aviation industry where airlines and other service providers operate in a conducive, supportive and profitable business environment.

“We therefore, call on the members of AON to commit to undisrupted flight services nationwide while the Ministry of Aviation, with other relevant stakeholders, continue with ongoing efforts at finding a lasting solution to the perplexing issue of aviation fuel availability and affordability, in the overall interest of the industry and the economy at large” the statement concluded.

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Sirika Appeals to Airline Operators to Shelve Plans to Shut Down Operations

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Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika has appealed to members of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) to shelve plans to shut down their operations from Monday,  even as engagements are ongoing to resolve the problem of aviation fuel scarcity.

Sirika who made the appeal in a statement by his Special Assistant on Public Affairs, Dr James Odaudu, assured that the Buhari administration remains committed to the development of the aviation industry in a way that creates an environment of competitiveness and profitability for the airlines.

“As the Ministry charged with the management of the industry, we are greatly concerned about the difficulties being faced by the airline operators in the country in procuring aviation fuel which has resulted in spiraling costs in Air transportation in the immediate past” the statement said.

“We also acknowledge that the airline operators are in the business to make profits, while servicing the very critical sector that is not only the preferred mode of transport for most Nigerians, but also the main international gateway to the nation.

“Unfortunately the issue of fuel supply is not within the purview of the Ministry and so the much it can do in the present situation is to engage with agencies, institutions and individuals in positions to provide succour to the airlines. This is already being done by the relevant team led by the Honourable Minister.

“While the efforts to assuage the situation are on, we wish to appeal to the airline operators, even in the difficult situation, to consider the multiplier effect of shutting down operations, on Nigerians and global travellers, in taking their business-informed decisions and actions.

“We also assure Nigerians, especially stakeholders in the sector, that the Buhari administration remains stoic in its commitment to the creation and sustenance of an environment that promotes the growth of the aviation industry where major players like the airlines can operate in a profitable and competitive market”

Members of the Airline Operators of Nigeria had on Friday expressed their inability to continue operations, going by the high cost of Jet 1 which according to them, accounts for about 95% of their operating costs.

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