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Onyema, Demuren, Akinkuotu, Mbanuzo   Task FG On Financial Intervention For Airlines

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… Massive Investment In Technology Also

As the Nigerian aviation industry continues to grapple with the ravaging effect of COVID-19 pandemic, critical stakeholders in the aviation sector have called on the Federal Government to assist airlines financially by way of making it possible for them to access zero or single digit interest loans as well as invest massively in infrastructure development, most specifically in technology to achieve the best result in the sector now and post Coronavirus.

They made the call today at a virtual online  conference with the topic , “COVID – 19: The Challenges and Opportunities for Nigeria’s Aviation Value Chain During and Post COVID -19”, organized by Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), a  group of aviation professionals.

Speaking, Chairman, Air Peace, Allen Onyema called on the Federal Government to intervene financially, adding that the workforce in the sector is critical to the economy.

Hadi Sirika
Aviation Minister

This is just as he supported the investment in technology,

He pointed out that airlines are the worst hit, adding that the challenges have become much that apart from other means, ‘airlines are looking up to government for assistance.

According to him, “We are not asking for free money or to buy aircraft, we have to present our case. My paramount concern is the workforce, we have over 3, 000 staff, their livelihood is in danger, we need to do everything possible to protect jobs, we need money to pay salaries not buy airplanes.

He continued, “Every airline needs to think out of the box, we are rolling out some measures to encourage passengers to fly. There are so many things we cannot do on Zoom meetings, but just as we defeated 9/11 menace, we will defeat Covid-19.″

On his part, Former Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr, Harold Demuren said that government should support airlines in the country and at the same time invest in infrastructure development.

“We also talk about economic stimulus, access to FOREX and sustainable interest rates,” he added .

Dr Harold Demuren
Former DG, NCAA

The former NCAA boss stated that there was need for agencies and airlines to enlighten the travelling public on the need for passengers to know that when they get to the airports and onboard airplanes, they are safe.

He pointed out that the biggest competition is now comes from online meetings, adding that to make aviation attractive again, there is need to embrace technology and invest in other infrastructure that will make the sector boom again.

In his words, ‘How do we make passengers trust us again that they can fly. The biggest competition is now between online meeting and the sector. We have now see that those meetings they go for in Abuja and London can now be done online.  Most business travellers go for these meetings and their companies pay for them, how do we get them back? How do we handle family vacation, I have seen online Weddings, they need to be assured of safety.  Religious tourism is still with us but it may not be the same number.”

Allen Onyema
Chairman, Air Peace

“We have seen that online can be in 3D form, the President did Federal Executive Council meeting online recently, Governors’ forum same. So we have a great challenge ahead of us, we need to improve ourselves in the sector like the banking sector has greatly improved technologically. Airlines have not improved with technology, we can’t continue on this level we are now and we are supposed to be a high-tech sector. By now, we should be able to do almost everything that has to do with a flight on our phones. We should be able to book for flights, buy tickets, process boarding g on our phones so that contact with people will be minimised, “ he added.

Accountable Manager, Dana Air, Obi Mbanuzo posited that NCAA has given out a very concise document and that airlines are ready to abide by the protocols.

Nigeria, he contended needs to look inward in terms of training, adding that Simulator training can be done locally if government equips the only training school in Nigeria with Simulator.

“We have been dependent on training abroad; may I advocate that airlines or government can get Simulator in Nigeria for themselves to reduce cost of re-currency. There must also be cooperation among airlines, mergers may not be the way forward because of different goals but in the area of Aero – politics and passenger aggregation, we have to cooperate so that customers don’t suffer. Why can’t Dana Air sell Akure ticket to passengers for other airlines, I believe we are up to the challenges. We overcame SARS and 9/11, we will overcome this”, he said .

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Aviation Minister Commends Umahi on Ebonyi Airport Project

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Minister of Aviation Senator Hadi Sirika has described the Ebonyi State airport project as a worthwhile one that will definitely open up the state to both domestic and international investments.

Senator Sirika who made the assertion while receiving the governor in his office Thursday,  described Governor Umahi’s decision to build the airport as one of courage and foresight, believing that the airport is guaranteed to expose the state’s agricultural potentials to the international market.

A statement by the Director, Public Affairs of the Ministry of Aviation,  James Odaudu, quotes the Minister as telling Governor Umahi that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has, since inception, embarked on creating an enabling environment for the expansion of the aviation industry in Nigeria which has been severally acknowledged by the global aviation community.

The Minister also gave the assurance that the Ministry of Aviation will do whatever is required to bring the project to fruition, considering the prospects for business growth and employment generation.

Governor Umahi and Aviation Minister, Senator Hadi Sirika

Earlier, Governor Umahi had briefed the Minister on the progress of the airport project and said he remained committed to its successful completion, considering the expected benefits to the people of the state.

He expressed the appreciation of the state to the Federal Government, especially the Aviation Minister, for the encouragement and support in seeing the project to its present stage, assuring the Senator Sirika that the airport,  when completed, will meet all industry requirements.

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AIB-N, NAF Collaborate for Improved Air Safety

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 Group Capt. B. A . Usman and COMM/CEO, Engr. Akin Olateru, at AIB Head office, Abuja.

Accident Investigation Bureau Nigeria (AIB-N), has reiterated its commitment to maintaining partnership and institutional collaboration with the Nigerian Airforce (NAF).

This is part of its drive to ensure sustainable cooperation with relevant authorities for safer airspace in Nigeria.

The Commissioner AIB, Mr Akin Olateru, who stated this while receiving the newly appointed Abuja Military Airport Commandant, Group Capt. B. A. Usman says the NAF had the Bureau’s full support and cooperation in ensuring air safety in the country.

He disclosed that AIB-N, as a government agency, has a strong relationship with the NAF, which was sealed with a pact between the two government establishments.

“AIB-N cannot do it alone. A strong collaboration must exist among relevant agencies in order to ensure the continuous safety of the Nigerian air space,” the Commissioner said.

While soliciting the Bureau’s support, Group Capt. Usman said, his team were seeking ways to consolidate the existing synergy between the agencies to ensure maximum safety and security within and outside the airport’s environment.

The Commandant further urged the Bureau not to hesitate to call NAF in times of distress, assuring the Bureau of readiness of a rapid response at all times

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DEFINING A NATIONAL SELF INTEREST-LESSONS FROM A BASA AGREEMENT GONE SOUR

By Tunde Adeniji

The DG NCAA Captain Musa Nuhu recently issued a Press release, conveying the decision of the Honourable Minister of Aviation Sen. Sirika Hadi to replace the operating schedule approval for 21 frequencies/week given to Emirates airlines with 1 weekly Frequency. He had relied on the spirit and letter of the Bilateral Services Agreement (BASA) between the two countries in responding to the single slots weekly offered to Air Peace at Sharjah Airport. The DG’s letter ended with his assurance to members of the public that national interests in all Aviation matters will be jealously protected.

The Aviation Policy and Strategic group discussed the fallout from this decision exhaustively, deconstructing the issues involved, even as its erudite members put forward many good suggestions about how to proceed. The engagements have been rich and enlightening and our intention in contributing to this discourse is to focus on the need to define a National Self Interest in a robust policy framework to guide future BASA/external Aviation relations engagements.

This need is justified based on our experience as a Nation which seems to suggest that we may be haunted yet again by the many decision makers who fell into the trap described below by Jon Moen:

“People who are managing a (financial or economic) crisis are not immune from personal motivations…Sometimes the people in charge don’t know at first that their personal motivations and past experiences might not be compatible with what is best for the greater good.”

We view National Self Interest ‘’As the overriding purpose governing the state’s relationship with the outside world, it serves two purposes. It gives policy a general orientation towards the external environment. More importantly, it serves as the controlling criterion of choice in immediate situations. The dominant view of national interest, in other words, dictates the nature of a state’s long-term effort in foreign policy and governs what it does in a short-term context’’.

The concept of Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) is the outcome of the compromise between the Open Skies advocacy of the US and the strong opposition by the UK and European countries, as a protection from their inability to compete with the formidable dominance of the US in post WW2 world. The delegates at the Chicago convention therefore agreed to a regime that allowed every country complete and exclusive sovereignty over its airspace with the provision that permissions were to be negotiated between contracting states on a bilateral basis. There are at least three different models of BASA, with varying levels of liberality, as may be agreed by the parties to it. We may therefore consider is a contract that should be mutually negotiated like any other

Slots on the other hand ‘’is the most emotive subject in civil aviation. It is the approval from an appropriate authority to take off at a particular time at one airport and land at its destination at another time. The difficulty arises in so called coordinated airports i.e., congested airports where there are severe capacity limits at certain times of the day. It subsequently dictates the difference between operating a route or not’’-D.H. Bunker

The Adam Smith model of Self-interest as the motivator of economic activity with competition as regulator to ensure the market runs efficiently without intervention, is situated below:

“It is not from the benevolence (kindness) of the government (of UAE), Its flag carrier (Emirates), or Airport (Sharjah) that we expect access to Air Peace, but from their regard to their own interest.”

It is important to state at the outset that the self-interest we advocate is (in the words of Lauren Hall) consistent with the demands of justice and becomes the germ from which virtuous, fair behaviour grows, to drive the larger economic engine of society.

In clear economic terms slots represents a barrier to entry and airlines awarded slots benefit from an economic rent. A system established to ensure stability has slowly become the property of the airlines. Slots are sold at a remarkable premium or used as a tool to exert unfair competitive pressures. It has been reported that many European countries who oppose the sale of slots, do so on the principle that, a private firm cannot benefit from a public good (Mackay 2008)

The decision to operate slot system or not remain those of the relevant airport and can be considered “its own internal cuisine‘’ just as ‘’A country’s motivation is its own concern, but the righteousness of its actions is the concern of all’’.

Nigeria like other states deliberately follow certain policies in pursuit of their national interest. The current face off with UAE, shows clearly that we have been a bit too eager to give than to receive or at least gave out before we received.

Our BASA is seemingly driven by the needs and ease of other countries. We have offered multiple entry points to countries, even where our own carriers have faced issues with slots for decades. These incongruities have never been convincingly explained to operators and other stakeholders

We have a unique opportunity to review our thinking and position in this area, especially as our slow adoption of Single African Air Transport Market (SSATM) and African Continental Free Trade Areas (AfCFTA) is totally in sharp contrast to our rush to embrace these dominant international brands

Our policies can start by ensuring that the investment by Nigerian carriers is complimented by access to the best of our facilities as no other country will ever offer them same.

A crisis, they say, is a terrible thing to waste, and so we suggest  that the minimum positive outcome from this saga should be a comprehensive policy paper that will spell out in clear terms, how Nigeria will take actions that will reduce to the barest costs and increase to maximum  benefits its engagements to further our National Aviation Interests.

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