NCAA averts system disruption, ground handlers shelve strike

 

 

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has prevailed on the Aviation Ground Handling Association of Nigeria (AGHAN) to put on hold its indefinite strike action slated for Friday which would have crippled both domestic and international airline operations in Nigeria.

The strike would have had catastrophic effects on the entire aviation value chain at a period the sector is showing signs of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic if the aviation regulatory body had not waded into the matter.

The ground handling companies are responsible for loading and unloading freight and baggage, monitoring the safety of passengers, sorting freight and baggage, servicing the interiors of the aircraft, washing the exterior of the aircraft, and repairing mechanical faults in the aircraft.

Their duties involve identification of the baggage’s ultimate destination and transferring it to the right location.

The ground handling firms including the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (nacho aviance) Plc, Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) Plc, Precision Aviation Handling Company Limited (PAHCOL), and Swissport Handling Company, had on Monday, November 1, threatened to embark on an indefinite strike over the National assembly’s directive stoppage of the implementation of the newly approved safety handling rates by the NCAA.

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The NCAA had in August approved new safety threshold handling rates for the ground handling companies, the first time in 36 years.

 

Inspection of Allied Air Cargo aircraft by Sirika, Wigwe, and Emefiele

However, after a marathon closed-door meeting with the agency, the chairman of AGHAN, Mr. Olaniyi Adigun said that the association had shelved the strike following NCAA’s intervention.

He said since AGHAN announced the strike, NCAA had held a series of meetings with the organisation to find a way out of the situation.

“Considering the impact of the strike on the economy, especially flight disruption, the strike has been called off. We actually reached certain rates with NCAA, which will be communicated to all soon”.

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“We thank the National Assembly, NCAA, stakeholders, and every Nigerian for their contribution to this development. It was a tough journey and the last time we amended the handling rate was about 36 years ago,” he said.

He said the new rates would take effect soon, but was silent on the exact time.

He praised the NCAA for its intervention saying it was in accordance with the four cardinal points of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO): cost recovery, wider consultation, integrity, and non-discrimination.

AGHAN was represented at the meeting by Adigun, his deputy, Mr. Ahmed Bashir, representatives of Batuke handling company, SAHCO, and nacho aviance, while the Director-General of NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu led the regulator’s team.

The ground handling firms had celebrated when the Federal Government through the NCAA has approved new ground handling charges for relevant companies. The newly approved rates came 35 years after the last amendment to ground handling rates charged by aviation ground handlers,

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The new rate was expected to commence from October 1, 2021 (international carriers) and January 1, 2022, for domestic operators before the National Assembly over-ruled the aviation regulatory body following petitions by airlines to stop its implementation.

Investigation by Aviation Metric shows that the Federal Government and the ground handling companies are losing an estimated $28 million (about N15bn) annually to inappropriate pricing in the country.

While the Federal Government loses enormously on taxes that would have accrued from price adjustment, the ground handlers are grappling with the huge cost of operations and running at a loss.

Wole Shadare