To attract aviation investment in 2022, insecurity must be addressed – Olowo
Gabriel Olowo is the executive director, Bellview Airlines, and the president, Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI/ART), an aviation based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) established to advocate Air Safety. In this interview with IFEOMA OKEKE, he assesses Nigeria’s aviation sector in year 2021 and gives projections for year 2022.
How will you assess the aviation sector in 2021?
Aviation in 2021 started with fresh hopes as the devastating effect of Covid 19 (which hit the world economy between February/ March 2020) began to show gradual decline and airports opened in phases. Thanks to medical researchers, discoveries and advancement in medicines for vaccines, protocols and other remedies.
Aviation business was beginning to crawl between 10 percent and 30 percent Year On Year in first quarter till mid second quarter of 2021. Third quarter was growing steadily to almost 75 percent Year on Year when different variants of Covid 19 known as Delta and now Omicron raised its ugly head. Discriminatory border closures, visa regimes and Covid protocols disrupted growth once again; another big disincentive to travel and travels began to nose dive once again.
Sadly, Performance returned to first quarter levels especially during December, (fourth quarter), and one only hopes the decline does not continue into 2022.
What do you think has improved and what is left undone?
I will imagine nothing has been left undone, as people all over the world yearn to have their lives back but for the so called global disaster called Covid-19. Riots & protests have been witnessed in economies where you least expect. Total closure of airports and borders is daily resisted as if people prefer to die rather than go hungry. There’s Covid fatigue everywhere. The football premiership in Europe for instance and economics of full stadia every other day have been affected.
What are your expectations for 2022?
One should positively look forward to 2022 with great hopes that Omnicron variant will not metamorphose into another variant or any other plague as such will impact life and travel so negatively like Covid 19.
How would you advise government on attracting investment in the aviation industry in year 2022?
Government should continue to address issues of insecurity and its adverse effect on Nigeria. The country’s risk speaks volume on economic index measurement. For instance, exchange rates, insurance premiums, pricing, inflation, etc.
Government should also stay clear of doing business but provide business friendly environment and ease of doing business. The language is on the lips but experience shows the situation is growing worse (home and abroad). Government agencies see business tasks as a disruption of their schedule rather than a fulfilment of it. How can one explain passport renewal taking forever to process for instance? Aside internal trade, businesses cannot thrive without inter economy movement. This should however, not be taken in isolation.
Businesses hitherto under ‘exclusive clause’ should be open to investors, anything short of this will continue to encourage illegal practices.
Government should also prioritize spending on security and thereafter on welfare of citizens, such as spending on health care, infrastructure deficit in housing, roads and education.
Recurrent expenditure spending should be cut and made lower than capital expenditure which demands huge reduction in the size of governance. Also, our media should make deliberate effort to sell the destination Nigeria, rather than its challenges which is not uncommon in any economy.
Do you think government can achieve unveiling a national carrier by April 2022 as claimed?
I’m not worried about time of entry of any carrier, my earnest desire is to see the emergence of strong, efficient, globally competitive Nigerian Flag Carriers. The weight thrown by Government on Air Peace/ Emirate commercial negotiations in UAE disagreement is a confirmation that Nigeria already endorsed the flag carrier by throwing its weight behind them. A commendable aero politics indeed. It was so with Arik Air before it suspended international operations. I am trusting that the same efforts will be deployed to sanitize all the routes which pose negative trade balance to Nigeria and Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) till date.
Government should go its full hog to all destinations served by all countries hitherto in preparation for additional one or two more Nigerian flag carriers.