We Also Need Forex To Do Our Business AON Tells FG
…Says Local Carriers More Committed To National Economy
…Accuses FG Of Given Preferential Treatment To Foreign Carriers
As the fortunes of the local airlines in the country continue to dwindle, the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has called on the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency make Forex available to domestic airlines.
This is just as the body stated that this issue should be resolved in the interest of safety and to avoid the collapse of the domestic air transport system.
The AON demand is coming on the heels of reports that the Federal Government has already made available $200,000 million available to the foreign airlines, that have been very vociferous on the forex issue using International Air Transport Association (IATA) to pursue their case.
The Chairman of AON, Capt Nogie Meggison made the call while fielding questions from aviation journalists at the weekend in Lagos.
The AON boss stated that aviation is a pivot of the national economy that not only facilitates the movement of people and goods than any other mode of transportation but also ensures the ease of doing business by making it possible to transact different businesses in several locations in a single day.
He added that this was made possible by Nigerian carriers, who despite operating in a difficult environment still manage to keep the wheels of the economy rolling and continue to provide jobs for a teeming Nigerian population.
He hinted that it was no longer news that airlines in Nigeria charge very competitive fares in local currency but have to carry out numerous operational activities including maintenance and purchase of spare parts in foreign currency thereby adding to the already unbearable burden the airlines have to carry on a regular basis.
Meggison lamented that the current forex constraint faced by airlines has further exacerbated the situation and threatening to cripple airline operations in the country.
The AON scribe argued that in the light of the above, AON seriously decries a situation where foreign carriers operating in the country were given preference by Federal Government making over $200,000 million available to them in 2016 to the detriment of Nigerian domestic carriers, whose safe operations also largely depend on equally having access to forex.
Foreign airlines, he disclosed repatriates an estimated $2.2 billion yearly out of the Nigerian economy leading to a colossal amount of capital flight as against domestic carriers that retain funds in the economy and provide jobs to Nigerians locally.
He told journalists that some of the international airlines have operated in Nigeria for decades but that they do not have any structure of their own in the country where they operate.
He wondered why the Federal Government is making things easy for the foreign airlines to the detriment of the local carriers that have contributed so much to the economy.
The Chairman, who was visibly not comfortable with the development said, “Can you know what will happen today if for example local carriers such as Aero, Arik and others decide to close shop and how many Nigerians will be in the unemployment market. Do you know that the staff of these international airlines operating in Nigeria put together is not up to that of Aero or Arik for example? What these international carriers know is repatriation of funds to develop their respective countries economy to the detriment of the Nigerian economy. What have they contributed to Nigeria since they started operating here?”
He added that despite the contributions of the domestic airlines to the growth of the Nigerian economy, the local carriers are yet to receive up to $10 million in comparison.
The AON Chairman pointed out that aviation is an international business and that irrespective of the environment an airline operates in they are all faced with the same challenges, most especially the Nigerian operators who according to him have to also deal with many infrastructure challenges and inefficiencies in the system.
To buttress his point, Meggison stated that local airlines also needs forex to carry out their business , as their aircraft are acquired, maintained in dollars and also that their spares are purchased in dollars, adding that airline business is a dollarised one.
According to him, “We therefore call on government to be proactive and extend the same level of support to Nigerian carriers by making significant amounts of forex available to them as extended to their foreign counterparts in an effort to forestall total collapse of the system and promote safety.”