* Akin Olateru
…Says FG Making Efforts To Address Forex, Aviation Fuel Scarcity, Rooftop Price Issues
…As Aligbe Advises Airlines Not To Go Into Jet-A1 Importation Business
Despite the challenges facing the airlines in Nigeria, the Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer of Accident Investigation Bureau-Nigeria(AIB-N), Engr. Akin Olateru has said that Nigeria has the best safety record in the world.
He said this while speaking as a panelist at the just concluded 26th edition of the League of Airport and Aviation Correspondents(LAAC) with the theme, “Sunset Airports: Economic and Safety Implications” held in Lagos.
This is just as he hinted that the Federal Government through the Aviation Minister, Senator Hadi Sirika is making efforts to address the lingering aviation fuel also known as Jet-A1 and Foreign Exchange(Forex)issues, as the Minister had met with the Airline Operators of Nigeria(AON) on the matter.
According to him, “Nigeria has the best safety records in the world. In the last six years, we have only lost three persons unfortunately to a helicopter crash at Opebi but I don’t know how many countries in the world that can boast of such a record. How did that happen? It is not by luck or accident. It is because the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) is doing their job and the Accident Investigation Bureau doing their job, investigating incidents and issuing the right safety recommendations to prevent recurrence and at the end of the day, it is about everyone doing what they are supposed to do.”
Olateru stated that most of the safety recommendations that AIB-N have come up with after releasing its reports have been implemented.
In his words, “Those issued to the aircraft manufacturer have been implemented, some to the regulator and some to the airport and some to Nigeria Airspace Management Agency(NAMA) and some to the Nigeria Meteorological Agency(NiMeT) and we have a system in place where we follow up and we have worked with the NCAA where we monitor those safety recommendations. There are still some serious incidents that we are investigating and about three will be released in the coming weeks.
On the challenges of foreign exchange and fuel, the AIB-N boss said that all the airlines in Nigeria are safe, contending though there are issues such as the inability of airlines to access foreign exchange and the skyrocketing price of aviation fuel, but that if there is any issue NCAA that is the regulatory will address it.
“All the airlines in Nigeria are safe and if there is any infraction, which is the job of the NCAA to do. I know that there are challenges right now like the challenges of aviation fuel, foreign exchange and others is something that the government is doing something about.
“The AON and the minister met recently to discuss the way forward and it is something that the government is doing something about. I believe that with time, those challenges will be gone.”
Speaking on the new aircraft for the planned national carrier; Nigeria Air, Olateru said that the more aircraft the airline has the more jobs are created because the airline would need the ground handling companies to manage it.
“I am also sure that some of the cabin crew members would be Nigerians. Moreover, this is a temporary arrangement, it is not going to be permanent,” he said.
Contributing to the discussion on Forex scarcity, the Chief Executive Officer of Belujane Consult, Mr. Chris Aligbe urged the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) to treat the airline sub-sector as serious matter, adding that failure to do that means the situation will remain the same.
Aligbe attributed the suspension of the operations of Dana Air and Aero to Forex and fuel, though there are other remote causes.
“What I suggest is that the CBN should identify the airline sub-sector as a major concern. Unless they do that, realising that it is the most effective transportation that we have that will keep the engine of the economy going, until they come to that point and do what they should do, which is to buy the necessary Forex for them to continue operating, we would still remain where we are. The immediate causes of the closure of these airlines is Forex and fuel although some of them have remote causes for their failure.”
On the debate whether airline should import fuel, he said that instead of going to the business of importing aviation fuel, they should pick one or two major marketers and discuss with them.
“I think that what airlines should do is to choose one or two major importers and corporate with them rather than setting up a system to import fuel. They don’t have the infrastructure and the knowledge for how to import fuel because it would mean setting up a company that has the capacity for that. They should cooperate with existing companies and you can choose about two or three of them and work with to get fuel and when you discuss, you can input and see how things work,” he advised.