The Vice President of Airlines Operators of Nigeria (AON), Alex Onyema, on Thursday said over 50 airlines have collapsed in the country in the last 30 years.
He said the aviation industry was being constantly threatened by imposed taxes and charges.
Onyema spoke during a courtesy call on the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, by the executives of AON. They were led to the Office of the Senate President by the Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika.
According to him, the policies of the government have not been friendly to operators.
He said, “You noticed that during the lockdown the world was crying for aviation. But before the advent of COVID, airlines in Nigeria have been going through turbulent times.
“It is not something to be proud of that in the last 30 years of our life as a nation, over 50 airlines have gone down. The owners of these airlines succeeded in other businesses. Why did they fail in aviation? It could be traced to so many factors including corporate governance, but most importantly it is policies. The policies have not been friendly to the growth of aviation.”
Onyema lamented that the waivers granted by President Muhammadu Buhari to airline operators for the importation of commercial aircrafts and spare parts were observed in breach by government agencies.
“He equally granted waivers to airlines fo imitation of aircrafts or aircraft soared. In the last six years, this has helped airlines in Nigeria.
“However, just recently this year, the Customs decided to reintroduce it, even when Mr. President has not revoked his presidential order taken at the Federal Executive Council. They’ve introduced a clearing that is alien to aviation.
“Sir, I would like to intimate you, that this particular regime to reintroduce what Mr. President has granted us has made airlines to be groaning.
“Many of these airlines have their spare parts at the sea ports and cargo sheds not being cleared because we don’t have that money to clear them. And we can never endanger the lives of people in this country by flying aircrafts that are unsafe.”
The AON advocated that the waivers granted by the president on import duties should be incorporated in the Finance Bill.
Onyema said, “The Finance bill is today before the Senate. We will like the intention and will of Mr. President to be incorporated in that Finance Bill, so that it will never be be at the whims and caprices of whoever takes over some certain government agencies going forward.
“All over the world, this is what is happening, Nigeria cannot be an exception.”
Onyema, who is the Chairman of Peace, said airlines who have shut down last week due to hostile working condition.
“We are borrowing money with interest at 26 percent, now the interest rate has come down to 15 percent, which is still very high. We can’t even get Foreign Exchange to do our business. Everything about aviation is imported,” Onyema lamented.
Meanwhile, the Senate President has assured the airline operators that the National Assembly would ensure that the Aviation sector is protected and supported.
Lawan said for private investors in the country’s aviation industry to survive, government policies must be fine-tuned in a way to ensure they thrive.
The Senate President who pledged the support of the National Assembly towards ensuring that airline operators were not squeezed out of business, said the legislature would look into policies affecting the sector while taking into consideration government’s need for revenue generation.
He said, “The policies of government at all times should be in tandem to make life better for citizens particularly, and support businesses to grow.
“But I want to assure you that what this Senate and, indeed this National Assembly, would do what is necessary to ensure that you are protected and supported.
“Any exemption that would help this industry to prosper and survive, the National Assembly will stand by that.”