The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has called on the Nigerian Government to as a matter of urgency address the failure to make forex available to domestic airlines in the interest of safety and avoidance of collapse to the air transport system.
President, AON, Captain Noggie Meggison who made this known while addressing aviation correspondents in Lagos over the weekend said, aviation was a pivot of the national economy that not only facilitates the movement of people and goods than any other mode of transportation but also ensures the ease of doing business by making it possible to transact different businesses in several locations in a single day.
“This is made possible by Nigerian Carriers who despite operating in a difficult environment still manage to keep the wheels of the economy rolling and continue to provide jobs for a teeming Nigerian population”, he stated.
He stated that it was no longer news that airlines in Nigeria charge very competitive fares in local currency but have to carry out numerous operational activities including maintenance and purchase of spare parts in foreign currency (Dollars) thereby adding to the already unbearable burden the airlines have to carry on a regular basis.
He disclosed that the the current forex constraint being faced by airlines has further exacerbated the situation and threatening to cripple airline operations in the country.
The operators decried what they said is situation whereby foreign carriers operating in the country were given preference by government making over $200million available to them in 2016 to the detriment of Nigerian domestic carriers whose safe operations also largely depend on equally having access to forex.
Meggison further stated that foreign airlines repatriate an estimated $2.2bn yearly out of the Nigerian economy leading to a colossal amount of capital flight as against domestic carriers that retain funds in the economy and provide jobs to Nigerians locally, adding that despite this domestic airlines are yet to receive up to $10 million in comparison.
His words, “Aviation is an international business and irrespective of the environment an airline operates in we are all faced with the same challenges; but more so for Nigerian operators who have to also deal with many infrastructure challenges and inefficiencies in the system.”
The operators therefore called on government to be proactive and extend the same level of support to Nigerian carriers by making significant amounts of forex available to them as extended to their foreign counterparts in an effort to forestall total collapse of the system and promote safety