By Chukwuemeke Iwelunmo
Individuals working in the defunct national carrier, Nigeria Airways and some government officials have been accused of contributing to the gradual collapse of the airline, rather than the Federal Government as claimed by some stakeholders in the country’s aviation industry.
Grp. Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), the General Secretary of Aviation Round Table (ART) made the allegation in an interaction with journalists.
Ojikutu regretted that the airline, which at a time was a force to reckoned with on the continent, was liquidated by the government in 2004, but noted that some forces in the airline brought the carrier down through their antics.
He pointed out that some of the management staff of the airline exploited the carrier, while others unilaterally compromised their position.
According to Ojikutu, some management staff of the airline were selling economic tickets to senior government officials and their families, but would later upgrade them to first and business classes, stressing that this alone cost the airline some fortunes.
He said: “Evidence also had it at that time that the Nigeria Airways management officials in the cloak of ‘government’ were selling economic tickets to senior government officials and their families and would put them in the first and business classes at the expense of genuine passengers who were willing to pay the correct fares for the seats.
“Many Nigerians including most at the conference organised by the League of Airport and Aviation Correspondents (LAAC), believed that it was the government who killed the Nigeria Airways and not the individuals exploiting or compromising their position of authority unilaterally.”
Ojikutu further observed that many of the operating airlines in the country at present were not financially healthy, which made them non-compliant with the economic regulations of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig. CARs).
He insisted that most of the existing carriers were probably recycling the business plans of the earlier or defunct airlines and charged them to change their business plan in order to effectively compete with their counterparts.
He wondered why an airline within four years of operation would be indebted to the tune of over N300bn.
“The earlier operators’ main interest in commercial aviation was to daily count the number of passengers and their earnings; the daily operational cost was not much of their concern.
However, when it was time for major repairs like the C-checks, they abandoned the aircraft, which in any case were very old for any repair at a cost almost at the initial price of the aircraft.
“If private airlines are not financially healthy, there can be no appreciable investment for boosting the sector.
Would the government alone continue to invest in the sector and at the same time be providing financial support with the public fund for the private airlines that have no key performance indicator programme in their business plans? He queried.
He also queried the assertion that the Federal Government was responsible for the early death of some indigenous carriers in the country through its policies.
Rather, he posited that earlier airline like Okada, Kabo, Bellview, Chanchangi, Sosoliso, ADC, Triax, Harka, Hold Trade and others of the 1980s and early 2000s benefitted immensely from the policies of the government and several intervention funds.