|From left, 2nd Dep. President, Kabir Maiwadda; Pub Sec, Olumuyiwa Salami; NANTA President, Bankole Bernard, Treasurer, Zackary Abdullahie; 1st Dep president Susan Akporiaye and VP, Aliyu Abdullahi|
The air travel sub sector of the economy, no doubt has been the worst hit in the lingering economic situation in the country particularly as it affects forex regime and currency devaluation. Concerned by this worrisome development, travel agencies in the country,under the aegis of National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), have appealed to the Federal Government to save the sector from total collapse by declaring a state of emergency.
President NANTA, Bankole Bernard, while briefing newsmen in Lagos said, while other countries are maximising the potential of aviation to develop their economy, “ours is already retrogressing amidst unfavourable policies and mismanagement.” and this puts at risk the means of income of over 6000 travel agents in the country who operate in the down stream arm of the aviation industry.
He recalled that the precarious situation started with funds of the foreign airlines getting trapped in the economy and loss of about 40 per cent when the naira was partially devalued.
“In the process, Iberia and United Airlines left. Emirates had its two daily flights to Lagos from two to one. Just recently, Aero Contractors suspended flight operations because they have to do maintenance. We don’t know which airline is next. If domestic carriers are closing shop, we will begin to travel by road. The implication is that our Lagos to Abuja and Port Harcourt passengers among others may now be traveling by road.
“Ghana, seeing our deficiency in holding our aviation together has reduced price of fuel by 20 per cent and position the Accra airport at the new West African aviation hub. They are also working to ensure that their national carrier comes alive. By the time they are through, it means more jobs and revenue for Ghanian economy and consequently translates to revenue loss for Nigeria.
“Over 3000 jobs are threatened in the air travel business with airlines withdrawing. While other countries are surviving on aviation alone, ours is worsening. Government needs to do something urgently,” he said.
He noted that the state of the domestic airlines are not beyond remedy, but government must improve the ease of doing business.
“The greatest challenge for the domestic airlines today is the inability to source for funds at low interest rate. Such has not been made available and it is affecting their operations. It is a known fact that Nigeria is one of the most expensive places to do business in the world. For a domestic airline to survive in this kind of tensed environment is a whole lot.
“We believe that if the government comes to their aid with a well-structured plan, we will start to see the necessary development. As it stands today, we can see that almost all of them have financial challenges and all financially weak.
“Their purchasing power has gone down as well. Servicing the aircraft and buying its spare parts are all in foreign exchange that is not even available for them to meet their obligations. It is a huge challenge on them, the industry and we all are affected.
He berated the government for the decrepit state of the country’s aerodromes, explaining that virtually all the airports are in sorry state. “Nigerian airports are nothing to write home about. They are in decrepit shape and that is why I maintain that an emergency needs to be declared in aviation to stem the tide.”
Bernard lamented the poor state of Abuja airport runway, saying the facility poses huge risk to airlines. He observed that recently, South African Airways had its aircraft damaged when it landed on the pot-hole ridden runway, causing inconveniences to passengers, airlines and other users.The poor state of infrastructure at the airports he said, is stunting the growth of tourism in Nigeria.