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Minister warns airline operators against blame game

The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has warned members of Airlines Operators of Nigeria against blaming the Ministry and agencies under it for the unsavoury operating environment and decline in profit in the sector.

Senator Sirika gave the warning on Wednesday in Abuja, at the conclusion of the three day public hearing on the six Aviation Executive Bills.

The Minister was reacting to claim of unfavourable business environment raised by the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Overland Airways, Captain Edward Boyo.

Captain Boyo in his presentation had accused the Nigerian Civil Aviation Agency, NCAA, of what he called exorbitant service charges.

He noted that undue taxation by NCAA in connivance with the Ministry of Aviation was responsible for high aviation fare while the agency was indifferent to standard and efficiency.

He revealed that the local airlines were victims of obsolete legislation and further sought for protection of the parliament through positive legislations to prevent local airlines operators from going into extinction.

He said: “The AON are victims of hostile environment, because of legislation that are obsolete and therefore useless.

The Senate should ask, why are airlines dying in Nigeria? It is good that we are amending the laws with the hope that it will help the common man.

“The local operators are being demonised as not remitting charges. What we should ask is, what is the efficiency of these agencies taking the charges, translating to high cost for travellers?

The airlines are dying and very soon there will be no airlines left. The operating environment is hostile.”

The Aviation Minister however attributed the decline in fortune of the indigenous airline operators to poor capital outlay, business plans and governance structure.
He said:” The airports must be run for profit, not charity.

“To explain why the airlines are failing are business plans and failure of their CEOs, you don’t blame their inefficiency on us.

They should look at their business plans. For those that have gone into extinction, check the ownership structure and business plans.

“It is not debatable. They should be critical with business plans, governance structures and capital outlay.

“Ask them about the maintenance plans for their aircrafts. Most of them miss it from business plan and governance structure, I don’t want to mention their names.”

Senator Sirika also said some of the taxes being complained about were products of legislations and beyond his Ministry and NCAA.

He assured that his Ministry was committed to the growth of the industry.

“Nigeria encourages entrepreneurship, it is the biggest market in Africa and certainly aviation must thrive and the only way it can thrive is to have the best legislation in place.”

The Aviation Minister further cautioned the airlines operators to be careful with their sources of fund which he maintained could be an inhibition to their growth and sustenability in the sector .

In his contribution, Chairman Bi-Courtney Group of Companies, Wale Babalakin, (SAN) warned the Senate Committee to consider an interface with the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters before ratifying the amendment.

Babalakin raised the alarm that certain provisions of the Bills were an infringement on the Constitution.

He further accused the Federal Airport Aviation Authority of conflict of interest.

“Some of the provisions are an embarrassment to the Nigerian Constitution. You need to take the amendment to the Committee on the Judiciary and the AGF. FAAN can’t play a role in regulating terminals, the FAAN can’t bully the operators with regulations.

“The regulator can’t continue to be a competitor, it is conflict of interest. We are being oppressed and it can’t continue. He who comes to equity must come with clean hands.”

Amongst the bills considered were “A Bill for an Act to repeal the Civil Aviation Act, 2006 and to Enact the Civil Aviation Act for the Regulation of Civil Aviation in Nigeria and for Other Related Matters, “A Bill for an Act to repeal the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology Act and to Enact the Nigerian Aviation Technology Act to provide for its organisation, control and operation and for related Matters.

Also included is a Bill for an Act to repeal the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency Act for the purpose of providing effective Air Navigation.”

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