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Except urgent solutions are found, the health of Nigerian airlines has created concern for stakeholders and other aviation watchers.
Managing Director, Centurion Aviation Security Limited, Group Captain John Okikutu (Rtd), told Woleshadarenews that many of the operating private airlines of today were not financially healthy and are substantially not compliant with the economic regulations of the Nig. CARs.
He hinted that most of them were probably recycling the business plans of defunct airlines, stressing that airlines like Arik Air could not have incurred a debt of over N500 billion within six years of its operations.
Ojikutu explained that earlier operators’ main interest in commercial aviation was to daily count the number of passengers and their earnings as daily operational cost was not much of their concern.
He said: “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 government alone continue to invest in the sector and at the same time be providing financial support with public fund for the private airlines that have no key performance indicator programme in their business plans?”
He stated that rather than believe in the rhetorics of blaming government for killing their businesses, there were historical evidence suggesting that the Nigeria airline operators themselves killed their businesses themselves.
He challenged anybody to provide records or evidence to suggest that it was government or its policies that killed airlines like Okada, Kabo, Bellview, Chanchangi, Sossolisso, ADC, Triax, Harka, Hold Trade of the 80s and early 90s.
His words: “Some of these earlier private airlines particularly, Okada, Kabo, Gas, Triax and DAS, between 1992 and 1995 flew more than 2000 flights for the ECOMOG Mission to Sierra Leone and Liberia with BAC-111, B-727, B-707 and B-747 and were earning $50,000.00 for the smallest and $120,000 for the biggest for a return flight
“None of the operators of these airlines had evidence that they were not fully paid for their services to government. As bonus to their earnings, they paid nothing at both ends for landing, parking and air navigational services on any of the flights.”
The former Commandant, Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, maintained that there was credible evidence showing that Nigeria Airways and ADC chose not to participate in the three years operation because their insurance policy did not cover their operation to war areas.
These evidence, he reiterated, also had it at that time that 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.
To him, many Nigerians believed that it was government that killed Nigeria Airways and not individuals exploiting or compromising their position of authority unilaterally.
Ojikutu lauded government for intervening in the plight of airlines when it bailed six carriers out with over N200 billion at six per cent interest from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Bank of Industry (BOI).
He added that government later gave zero duties to the airlines on imported aircraft spares.
According to him, “The government later gave zero duties to the airlines on imported aircraft spares. At an earlier event this year, we were told by the MD NAMA that over 12 containers of spares and equipment for critical communication and radar belonging to the agency a ‘government’ agency have been at the Apapa Wharf for over five years because of its inability to pay custom duties. Discerning minds may wish to ask; which government policy gave zero duties to the private airlines and could not give same to its own agency?”
An aircraft pilot, who spoke on condition of anonymity, called on the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to audit the finances of the airlines, saying they “are in precarious situation.”