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FG Approves Resumption Of Domestic Flights, As Fare Hike Expected

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…Allows Inter-state Movement Within curfew Hours..

The Federal Government has approved the resumption of domestic flights in the country and has said a hike in flight fare was inevitable in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic contrary to the Minister of Aviation’s declaration a week ago that there would be no fare increase.

This is as government has also lifted the ban placed on interstate travels with effect from July 1, provided such journeys are made outside curfew hours.

Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, made these known while responding to a question during the daily briefing of the task force in Abuja

Mustapha said those in the aviation sector are in business for profit explaining that with the protocol on social distancing, airlines will be expected to fly fewer number of passengers.

He noted that operators will have to share the cost in view of present situation with their passengers.

Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika with some members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 during their inspection of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja and the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Lagos on Saturday

National Coordinator, Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu had earlier announced domestic flight operations is now allowed to open in Nigeria after a satisfactory assessment of the industry’s readiness for restart.

According to him, domestic operations are allowed to open as soon as practicable but in line with existing international and local guidelines on covid-19.

He emphasized that passengers must arrive the airport 3 hours before flights to observe all the health protocols put in place by the airport authority.

“You must observe social distance, wear a face masks, wash your hands, sanitize it, your luggage must be disinfected, temperature taking and so on.”

It would be recalled that the Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika, on company of some members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, and officials of the Ministry of Aviation and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and other agencies, conducted a restart simulation at both the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja and the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Lagos on Saturday where they all expressed satisfaction with the level of preparedness to resume services.

On the lift of the ban placed on interstate travels with effect from July 1, Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, disclosed that movement was possible provided such journeys are made outside curfew hours.

Mustapha, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, disclosed that the latest developments were contained in the task force’s fifth interim report which was submitted to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), earlier in the day.

Mustapha said, “I am pleased to inform you that Mr President has carefully considered the 5th Interim Report of the PTF and has accordingly approved that, with the exception of some modifications to be expatiated upon later, the Phase Two of the eased lockdown be extended by another four weeks with effect from Tuesday, June 30, 2020 through Midnight of Monday, 27 July, 2020.

“Specifically, however, the following measures shall either remain in place or come into effect:

“Maintaining the current phase of the national response, for another four weeks in line with modifications to be expatiated by the National Coordinator; Permission of movement across state borders only outside curfew hours with effect from 1st July, 2020;“Enforcement of laws around non-pharmaceutical interventions by States, in particular, the use of face masks in public places.”

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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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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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