•How former ministers decline fortunes of air transport, by Adede
Aviation professionals have called for an overhaul of the current aviation development plan to accommodate and revolve growth around local airlines.
The stakeholders, who met at a Business Meeting of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), in Lagos, said aviation growth is sustainable when anchored on local content, coupled with a comprehensive and implementable roadmap.
Chairman of the event, Senator Musa Adede, said a genuine roadmap begins with the government supporting Nigerian airlines as flag carriers, to reciprocate the Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASAs).
Adede, who is the Chief Executive Officer of King Airlines, a charter and tour aviation company, regretted that while the local airlines are all operating in silos, the last two administrations also failed to show genuine leadership to blossom the fortunes of local air transport.
He said: “As it is, there is no unity among the airline operators either scheduled, charter, or helicopters. They are all working in isolation. The aviation ministry too is not helping the industry to grow. Our airports are very dirty.
“The former ministers in the sector, especially Oduah, and Sirika, who claimed to be captain, have killed the sector. Our ministers have sold out in drafting the agreements with foreign airlines and governments.”
Adede added that the industry, however, needs fresh ideas on how to rally the players to join forces and compete favourably in the international segment.
“What we are looking for is flag carriers (not national carrier); hence, the need to support your own. Why do you have foreign airlines fly into Nigeria and you cannot find groundnuts onboard? They give you peanuts. You cannot find one Nigeria cabin crew on board. Why is our own different? Because our ministers have sold out!” Adede said.
President of ASRTI, Dr. Gbenga Olowo, reckoned with Adede, as he called for cooperation, collaboration, and merger of indigenous airlines to compete with foreign carriers. He said this would help to address the exorbitant airfares by foreign airlines and reduce trapped funds among others.
“Foreign airlines must be restricted to a single point of entry into Nigeria and that is the way to go so that we can rescue the market from foreign powers. We need to fly our own.”
Vice President of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), Allen Onyema, harped on passenger education to understand the operations of the airlines and stop the upsurge in condemnation due to delays and cancellation of flights.
He said urgent attention must be given to infrastructure development and the regulatory agency; the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) must be allowed to be truly autonomous by the supervisory ministry.