Olu Owolabi is managing director of Skyway Aviation Handling Company Limited (SAHCOL). He has been at the helms of affairs of the company two times being a seasoned manager. In this interview with Sade Williams, he says the new warehouse that will soon be unveiled has state-of-the art facilities, among other others. Exerpts:
Changes in SAHCOL
We are just trying to add more to what we’ve been able to achieve so far. Infrastructural changes are still going on as I am speaking, don’t forget that the type of facility that is being put up now is one of the best in Africa, as a result, when you are developing things, it is not static. It is a continuous exercise to continue to improve. Infrastructural and functional aspect of it has been laid down, people can see it, but the expansion aspect of it is to create more value to what we have. As at today, we are having six cold rooms, we have three huge freezers and three fridges for cold room for import and export.
For pharmaceutical products like vaccines that should not be contaminated, incoming frozen products, we have new shopping malls being established in the country, they need all these infrastructure for things that being exported. More equipment are coming in even-though we have not seen any relief from government in terms of reviewing duties on equipment, as promised under the last regime. Our equipment are down at the port, we are not using them for personal purpose, it is for the benefit of the country, if we don’t have good equipment at the airport, how do we handle the planes and lives that are involved. Even the Customs that are picking up on tariffs don’t even understand the benefits, they don’t know what we are trying to do for the country, they look at the them that the equipment are for personal use but they are not, they are for public use, we need to do it to keep the airport modern, we don’t want to be a second fiddle, we want to do what is being done all over the world but the tariffs has eaten into our revenues but we have to do it, we are asking for a review of the tariff on these equipment, that should not be too much for government.
We are actually operating at par with international standards but when you take certain infrastructural aspect that does not belong to handling but attached to it such as the conveyor belts, the cooling systems, the lifts, the check-in counters need to be mordernised and improved upon, these are thing that add value to the operations art airports, they tell you what a nation looks like. As a visitor to Nigeria on arrival, I start sweating, from my head to toe, there are two flights on ground, only one conveyor belt is working, what impression are giving. These are areas where government should look into, FAAN should be assisted to improve more upon the system. The facelift has been done but we now need the internal infrastructural things to be done.
Clientele base and equipment
It depends on how many airlines have come into the country in recent times, except if some airlines have change companies, but in terms of improvement, the facilities have been so we would have been seeing some things if not because of the exchange rate that has affected the country. The economy is affecting everywhere and individuals, when economy affects individual, it will also affect companies. We have spent millions on equipment, some are still at the ports so I can’t start quantifying them now but until they are brought in.
Any plan to sack 200 workers?
First of all, whatever success any company achieves is through its workforce, the staff have contributed a lot, we appreciate that a lot. Because of sensitive things that we deal with, you cannot continue to watch staff not receiving salaries as at when due, the management believes that salaries of staff must be paid so that they can be responsible to their families. When you have a company that does not pay for three months and you say you are carrying them, I don’t think that co0mpnay needs to exist and that we don’t do. We pay our salaries before 26 or 27, towards the end of the month. But what the board has directed is to look at any area of excess and see hopw to normalize it and make sure that our responsibilities are maintained, we are not retrenching such numbers, it is a blackmail, we have full agreement with the union, we have agree on everything we want to do. Going by records, SAHCOL has been nice to its staff.
Opening of warehouse
We are fine-tuning, we ae almost there, we have finished with the import, we have moved to the export area to upgrade it and make a one-stop shop. There is no hassle, you come in with your documents after leaving the banks, the staff are there who will look into your documents and then go in and bring out the goods. We have 22 loading bays, as it is raining now, they are loading because everywhere is covered.
How to reposition cargo operations in Nigeria
When both handling companies decide to close ranks and we will have a viable cargo operations in Nigeria, when customs know when they are supposed to do and keep to it, when agents conform to their level of compliance, when touts are eliminated from the ports, I think we will be one of the best. I think FAAN is trying to do that now, and with the type of warehouse we built, the structure does not allow for stealing, no touting, we have where we can keep every goods for companies.