Aviation Not Over  But Most Regulated —WestLink Airlines CEO

* The Chief Executive Officer of WestLink Airlines, Capt. Ibrahim Mshelia



…Attributes High Cost Of Tickets  To Inconsistent Fuel Pricing, Paying Of  Duties Despite Waivers


…Says Federal Government Has Final Say 



The Chief Executive Officer of Westlink Airlines, Capt. Ibrahim Mshelia has stated that the Nigerian aviation industry is not over regulated by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority(NCAA) contrary to insinuation in some quarters .

This is just as he attributed the increasing cost of airfare to inconsistent fuel pricing, airlines paying duty for spares even when the government has granted waivers, the maintenance of aircraft  abroad which is paid for in Dollars, adding  that airlines operators have to recoup their money.

Mshelia , who said this in  an interview  said that although there may be over zealousness on the part of some officials, that , he said does not in anyway amount  to over regulation, as aviation itself has a process

“Aviation cannot be over regulated, aviation has a process, it is one of the most regulated industries in the world, but it is also the normal thing so any aviator would readily acknowledge it is the most regulated but to say over-regulated I don’t think this is correct. Yes there is overzealousness in some cases by individuals but the regulation is very clear and when it’s made it is proposed to us and when amendments are made we operators and our voices are taken into account and then the regulation comes out.

“Even though, the current regulation needs more of our voices of ours because when they were made some of them were made in a hurry to enable approvals of certain requirements because of audits coming up and things like that and there are some part of the regulation which ‘if you are lazy to check kindergarten and secondary school people and you just say you know what this race is for only those who have university and up so you just use blanket modus to sideline people. That is not over regulation, that is trying to make things convenient for you and when you do that; the long term effect is that you’d been seen as unpatriotic, let’s do the thing thoroughly and build this thing from the ground up, when you want to start from the middle up certainly there’d be issues and there’d be problems. Aviation in itself needs to be regulated the way it is but whether there are lacunas here and there obviously there are, ” Mshelia said.

He pointed out  that all over the world nobody likes  the Civil Aviation Authority(CAA) in their respective countries, as a result of the regulatory roles they play towards ensuring safety .

In his words, “I don’t know of anybody who likes the CAA. I have operated in the US, nobody likes the FAA, I have operated in Ghana and most of them don’t like the Ghana CAA, I have operated in Gabon, same thing, I have operated in Cameroon same thing, I have  operated in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea same thing, Sierra Leone, Dakar, Senegal..I have operated around the world, CAA is CAA it’s just the way the world is.”

On the increase in the cost of a one-way ticket  by airlines for  Abuja-Lagos flight  to as high as N120, 000 , the WestLink  boss  said that is to create and strengthen General Aviation(GA) to bring about competition  and reduce the airfare.

According to him, “The only way is to start General aviation, ease the process and allow more competition. That’s the most civil solution. If I have an airline flying for less, I will choose that cheaper one. But when there seem to be a gang up between the few available, then they can do what they want. You also cannot stop them. It’s a matter of choice and when a provider chooses to exploit or take advantage, then the client can choose to use alternatives available or cancel. More airlines are coming on stream, this will mitigate this problem. ”

Defending airlines on the increase of airfares,  Mshelia, said that there are many factors  affecting ticket pricing in Nigeria, adding that aviation  industry does not enjoy oil money anymore, the agencies have to employ people above what they need because there is pressure from all over, they also have to generate what they use to pay the staff, develop infrastructure and maintain them.

He added that apart from that  they have to contribute to the federation account some 25 per cent of income and that airlines are also  faced sometimes with  fuel price increases like every other day.

Speaking further, he said, “More labour force at the agencies because they are forced to employ everyone and must pay salary and sustain them at work. How can they do these without taxing the airlines heavily? I feel those who advised the Government to remove the Aviation Ministry from Federal subvention should go back and re-jig the ideas and re- advice Government to amend the decision. Even funding the salaries from the subvention will ease the agencies and cause a huge relief from the burden. Ideally, the number of staff are just way more than required but because we must give employment to citizens, by all means why not. But we must also try not to over milk the cow because we may soon end up without any. Its government responsibility to provide all sorts of security including jobs… let them pay them directly while the agencies use them.

“Also, inconsistent fuel pricing, airlines paying duty for spares even when the government has granted waivers etc. As I speak, I still pay duty for all parts I import to service our aircraft. I don’t even know if there is anything we produce locally that we use to operate our aircraft these days besides just catering. Depending on imports for everything and yet-duty waivers granted are still being collected from operators is part of what’s making the citizens and travelers pay more. Operators have to recover their investments. They are encouraged by the same system to also recover their costs. Government therefore holds the final say on these.”

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