BusinessDay

Aviation ground handlers seek waivers, FX window to cushion economic downturn

The Aviation Ground Handling Association of Nigeria (AGHAN) is canvassing for duty waivers, special window for foreign exchange and other incentives for ground handling companies in the country especially as challenges facing the industry climbed.

This is as the association said that it has so far achieved over 60 percent success in the implementation of the new safety threshold handling rate approved by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) in the last quarter of 2021.

Speaking on Tuesday in Abuja during the courtesy visits to Musa Nuhu and Akin Olateru, the Director-General, NCAA and the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), respectively, Olaniyi Adigun, the chairman of AGHAN, lamented that the handling companies needed government supports to remain in business.

Adigun specifically called for customs duty waivers, easy access to forex and other incentives for the handling sub-sector of the economy.

According to him, the handling companies could not be isolated from the echo system of the aviation industry.

The AGHAN chairman decried that due to the recent downturn in the economy occasioned by the fall of naira against major currencies, the handling companies were struggling to acquire modern Ground Support Equipment (GSE) to augment their services.

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He posited that the approval of a special window for forex and removal of customs duties for the handlers would further ensure safety in the industry as funds saved from these would be expended on training, retraining, attraction and retention of quality personnel for the sub-sector.

On the approval and subsequent implementation of the new safety threshold handling rate for the handling companies, Adigun noted that the handlers had achieved over 60 per cent implementation.

On the other 40 percent, Adigun said serious negotiations were ongoing with them to comply with the directive and expressed hope that they would comply very soon.

He lauded Nuhu and Olateru for their contributions in achieving the new safety threshold handling rate by the handlers.

He said: “This is the first time in my years in the aviation industry that I will see a true change in the handling sub-sector in Nigeria. In the past, they engaged in unhealthy competition, which unfortunately worked against us, but today, we are seeing some changes.

“However, some of the African airlines are yet to comply with this directive. But, serious negotiation was ongoing between them and us. One thing we want them to know is that this new safety threshold handling rate is for their benefit as we will be able to acquire more modern equipment that we will use to serve them.

“We want to thank you specifically (Nuhu and Olateru) for your support on how far we have gone on this project. Without you, we couldn’t have gone this far. We are also promising you that some of the money generated from this would be used for increased delivery services to our clients.”

In his response, Nuhu, said that the handling companies were part of the aviation safety chain, even though their critical activities were not known to air travellers.

The NCAA boss declared that without the ground handling companies, the echo system may be compromised, maintaining that the regulatory agency would work for the continuous entrenchment of air safety in Nigeria.

According to him, the ground handling companies could not be insulated from the challenges in the industry, stressing that the neglect of one of the chains could lead to an accident.

He said: “Aviation is an echo system and if one of the systems doesn’t function well, the others become useless. Whatever each component does, it must go round. The success of the industry is everyone’s success.

“If we concentrate on airlines alone and leave the others, it’s an accident waiting to happen. If everyone does his or her job, there won’t be any problem. I have seen an accident caused by a cleaner of an aircraft. The cleaner only forgot to remove a tape from the aircraft and it led to the death of over 200 people.”

In his comment, Olateru expressed excitement about the success of AGHAN, describing the ground handling companies as a critical aspect of the aviation industry.

He challenged the handlers to carry out self-audit of their infrastructure and personnel to reduce the number of airside accidents associated with ground handling.

Also, Ahmed Bashir, the vice chairman, AGHAN, said that the formation of the association was to enhance safety in the industry, stressing that a staff who is not well-motivated was an accident waiting to happen.

Boma Ukwunna, public relations officer, AGHAN, said that the ground handling companies would consistently support the government in increasing security and safety in the industry.

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