The much talked about and long awaited maiden edition of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria(FAAN) National Aviation Conference(FNAC) with the theme, “Advancing the Frontiers of Possibilities for Safe, Secure and Profitable Air Transport” has come and gone but the memories of the world class event lingers on.
To those who were at the event, the takeaways were huge, informative, educative, captivating, inspiring and encouraging.
During the well thought out and world class event organised by FAAN, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory(FCT) was agog, as the city through FNAC played host to various participants such as Ministries, Federal Government agencies, state and local government representatives, Organised Private Sector(OPS), concessionaires, airline operators, ground handling companies, banks, captains of industries, development partners, the media among others.
FNAC in line with its aims and objectives lived up to its billing as it gave participants the following opportunities: to exchange relevant industry information with all the critical stakeholders, offers stakeholders an opportunity to explore deliberate and understand hoe technology–driven innovations can change air travel in years to come.
Besides, FNAC also gave stakeholders the platform to discuss the future of airports as it relates to safety, security, financing and leasing, sustainability, growth drivers among other topics.
At the event, critical indigenous stakeholders in the aviation such as airline operators, ground handlers and others were able to make their voices heard by expressing their challenges, needs and also educating other participants on their operations.
For instance, the Chairman of Air Peace and who is also the Vice Chairman of Airline Operators of Nigeria(AON), Mr. Allen Onyema, used the avenue provided by FAAN to inform participants and by extension the world that three domestic airlines in the country may be on their way to extinction if the current skyrocketing aviation fuel also known as Jet A-1 currently sold at N714 per litre is not addressed by the Federal Government.
Though, Onyema did not reveal the names of the alleged ailing airlines, but he has succeeded in using FNAC in sending signal to the world that all is not well with some airlines as far as accessing aviation fuel is concerned.
He also said that prices of aviation fuel have risen to 714 per litre in some airports in the country and that the situation is further compounded by the problems bedeviling airline operators in the country.
Onyema, however noted that the issue of aviation fuel challenge was not limited to Nigeria alone, but that what made Nigeria’s case disturbing is the depreciating exchange rate of the Nigeria currency; the naira against major currencies, especially the American Dollars.
He disclosed at FNAC that the Federal Government had approved 10,000 metric tonnes of aviation fuel to the airlines, to address the issue but that airlines have not been able to access it.
FNAC as a platform that was deliberately created for aviation critical stakeholders and organisations such as: fuel marketers, airline operators, ground handlers and catering services among others to air their views about the challenges they are facing in accordance with the conference’s objectives expressed their concern over scarcity of Foreign Exchange (Forex) and the fall of the naira against major currencies.
Above all, FNAC attracted both local and international investors, who were there in their numbers and who came with the hope of taking advantage of the numerous investment opportunities abound in the aviation sector.
To further achieve the aim of the forum, ground handling companies through the Vice Chairman, Aviation Ground Handling Association of Nigeria (AGHAN), Mr. Bashir Ahmed, was able to use FNAC to inform FAAN that the level of infrastructural decay at most of the airports across the country limits the turnaround time of operators at the apron and that the ground handlers needs more state -of -the -art infrastructure at airports
Ahmed like AON also posited that the scarcity of Forex further contributed to the challenges the handlers’ operations, as it also limits the operations and the expansion drive of ground handling entities in Nigeria.
He used the event to appeal to the Federal Government to take a critical look at the challenges and address the issues raised and also went ahead to commend FAAN for installing two explosive detective scanning machines each at the warehouses of the ground handling companies in Lagos.
The installation, Ahmed acknowledged had enhanced the performances of the handling companies in the industry.
According to him, “We still want to appeal to the Federal Government to grant waivers to handling companies on importation of ground handling equipment. Also, we need more scanning machines by FAAN to further improve our operations and create seamless services to our clients and the airlines.
“The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has also done well with its regulation of the industry. This shows that Nigerian aviation industry is changing.”
To demonstrate that FNAC achieved the objectives it set for itself, FAAN, the organiser of the event, through its Managing Director, Capt. Rabiu Yadudu use the forum to inform participants at the event that the agency has suspended issuance of new licenses to intending free trade zone applicants at airport areas
He further informed stakeholders that there are two free trade zone operators at Murtala Muhammed Airport(MMA), Lagos presently and that two additional companies have also applied.
The FAAN boss also disclosed that all the five international airports in the country have been designated as free trade zones, warning that if the Free Trade Zones are not well-regulated, it may be a big challenge for the country in the future.
Yadudu insisted that FAAN and other relevant authorities such as the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) should be represented on the board of NEPZA to resolve the challenges in the system.
Speaking on behalf of Oil Marketers at the event, the Acting Secretary General of Aviation Fuel Market Association of Nigeria (AFMAN), Engr. John Abegunde in a paper titled, “Review of CITA Aviation for AFMAN”, said that the organization’s mandates of oil marketers are to supply good quality dry aviation fuel that meets up global standard requirement, ensure satisfaction in service delivery and stringent quality control mechanism and offer product and services at competitive price.
Other mandates according to Abegunde is guarantees product availability all year round, coupled with superior customer service, religious adherence to health, safety & environment rules & regulations and effective time management in service delivery.
The AFMAN Ag. Secretary General, however pointed out that certain issues such as product availability, product price often not competitive, logistics challenges and inequality in standard operating practices are the challenges militating against achievement of the mandates.
He added that despite these challenges, oil marketers have recorded some successes.
Abegunde listed the areas of successes to include: absence of major incident or accidents related to fuel quality issues, capacity to sustain the industry supply beyond market demand and representation at all airports in Nigeria to aid seamless operation of the airliners.
Other areas the marketers have achieved success are creating industry employment growth and opportunities, better synergy between aviation fuel marketing company and international airline.
On areas of collaboration needs from other industry stakeholders towards achieving organization goals and objectives, Abegunde contended that since aviation fuel is fully deregulated, the Federal Government should not interfere in all commercial related issues.
FAAN, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA)and Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) , he argued should be more concern themselves about the stringency of the aviation fueling requirement.
To ensure organisational goals are achieved, Abegunde advised that NCAA and NMDPRA, he pointed out to harmonise oversight responsibilities to ensure no quality compromise in this area of business and that FAAN should watch out for portfolio and unlicensed suppliers to discourage racketeering and black-market business of aviation fuel.
He said the idea of throughput should not be encouraged and that all parties should embrace Joint Ventures(JVs) / JVs agreement.
Besides, Abegunde advised all parties to encourage AFMAN) to have the benefit of organised private sector such as Nigerian Medical Association(NMA), Nigeria Bar Association(NBA) and Nigerian Society of Engineers S(NSE) and the likes.
Speaking further, he said, “FAAN needs to review land lease arrangement and multiple charges as the volumes are no more looking good to the initial business projection,”
In conclusion, the 2022 FNAC to a very large extent was a success as both existing critical stakeholders and potentials investors converge to discuss issues in the aviation sector.
FAAN, the organiser was also able to use its investment forum to market its assets towards achieving commercially viable airports especially the secondary airports. To FAAN, the maiden edition was good but that of 2023 will be better.