Overland Airways: Breaking The Borders In The Face Of Aviation Challenges By Eugene Onyeabo Aligbe

* Pix source: Secret Reporters



The Aviation industry is one of the highly regulated sectors in the world. The same rules and regulations by International Civil Aviation Organisation(ICAO), apply to all airline companies in Europe, America, Asia, and Africa to Middle East.

The rules and regulations border on Safety, technical, manpower development and consumer protection. Here in Nigeria, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority(NCAA) is saddled with the responsibility to domesticate the strict aviation regulations as stipulated by the world aviation governing body, ICAO for airline operators in aviation sector. Complying with these numerous laws by Airlines requires huge capital, discipline, commitment, principles and diligence so as not to fall short of what it takes to stand the test of time.

The quality of airline operators and their workforce is entirely dependent on sound oversight by Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority as the regulator of the aviation industry. This is a prerequisite for all operators in the industry to lay great emphasis on training and retraining of its workforce in order not to compromise on safety which is the basic watchword in the industry. No airline can conveniently operate without due consideration on safety. The enormous financial outlay needed for airline certifications, training and retraining of pilots/engineers coupled with compulsory checks lead some airlines to cut corners thereby resulting to sanctions, liquidations and AMCON takeover.

Apart from the NCAA usual regulations that must be adhered to, other challenges of airline operations in Nigeria include high cost of aviation fuel and multiple taxations which drastically reduce the profitability of the airline business. This has become a bane in the industry since private airline operation started in Nigeria with Okada Air in 1983. Others included ADC Airlines, Sosoliso Airlines, Capital Airlines, Afrijet Airlines, Albarka Air, Bellview Airline; all of which had gone extinct.

While many of these private airlines failed due to different daunting aviation challenges, some that are presently flying are struggling to stay afloat with the help of AMCON acquisition. In the face of all these, Overland Airways continues to break new ground.

Overland activities in aviation subsector since 2002 has proven that airline operation is about having a motivated workforce through application of professionalism as required in global aviation services. This is where Overland Airways since its commencement of operation in the aviation industry draws its strength from as one of the leading aviation companies in Nigeria. The airline has gone further to provide several aviation – related services in Nigeria. These services include Charter flight, Schedule flight, Aviation Business School and Publication of Aviation and Allied Business Journal.

Overland Airways scheduled domestic flight services within Nigeria has succeeded in bringing air transportation to the hinterland of Nigeria through its fleet of 9 modern aircraft made up of ATR-42s, ATR-72s and Beechcraft 1900Ds. Today, its routes include Lagos, Abuja, Ibadan, Ilorin, Akure, Dutse, Minna, Bauchi, Asaba and Jalingo. Overland Airways also operates charter flight services to various destinations in West and Central Africa. Obviously, connecting these hinterland communities to Abuja and Lagos, the main economic hubs of the country is what has differentiated Overland Airways from other airline in Nigeria. This invariably affirmed the airline’s resolve to contribute to the economic expansion and development of the nation as well as West Coat to further bring home the realization of Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) by African Union (AU).

The confirmation was the recent introduction of safe and comfortable schedule flight services to Cotonou, Republic of Benin, Lome in Togo Republic and Niamey in Niger Republic. This is commendable and of course, bringing the gain of Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) to Nigerian nation through reduction in capital flight.

No wonder, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the airline, Captain Edward Boyo, who was the co-pilot on the introductory flight to Aeroport International Diori Hamani, Niamey assured that the services would be extended to include Abuja-Niamey, Sokoto-Niamey, Kano-Niamey, among other northern and southern routes to connect Nigerian traders and travellers to their brothers in Niger. He disclosed that the sole aim of operating to Niamey was to further enhance business activities in the sub-region and contribute to deepening regional integration through the blockage of the wide interconnectivity gap existing among countries in the West Coast.

Captain Edward Boyo while emphasizing the importance of interconnectivity among West Coast stressed the commitment of the airline to connect more African nations and strengthen regional integration. He said, “We share the joy of connecting brothers to brothers, sisters to sisters, communities to communities. We have removed the borders between Nigeria, Benin Republic and Republic of Togo. You don’t need a visa to move from Togo to Lagos or Cotonou to Lagos; all you need is Overland Airways. We shall continue breaking the borders for the good of all Africa”.

The Captain continued, “It is possible for prosperity and economic development to come to our lands. We are going to intensify the relationship between Nigeria, a very large economy in West Africa. There are about 400 million people in West Africa and we are not doing enough trade. Our people must trade with each other. That is what ECOWAS is all about. So the dream of our forefathers who dreamt of ECOWAS is being actualized today.” Overland Airways has indeed come to help Nigeria realize the gain of SAATM.

Overland Airways unalloyed commitment to bridging the interconnectivity gap among hinterland cities despite obvious aviation challenges that have forced many others to close down or being acquired by Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) is undoubtedly commendable.

Also, the Overland Airways quality service delivery through professionalism and excellence has shot them to this lofty height, coupled with its desire to empower Nigeria’s hinterland economies with sustainable, safe and comfortable flight services. Today, with Overland Airways uncompromising attitude to global aviation regulations standard, more borders would be broken in the near future to bring hope to many Nigerian businessmen and women in West Coast who had endured the stress of travelling by road.

Eugene Onyeabo Aligbe, a Public Affairs Analyst writes from Lagos.

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