By Sade Williams
The Skyway Aviation Handling Company Limited (SAHCOL), has called on the Federal government to initiate policies that will improve ground handling business in Nigeria.
Its acting managing director, Basil Agboarumi, who was a guest at the gateway forum organised by the League of Airport and Aviation Correspondents (LAAC) on Thursday, said every other sub-sector of aviation had at one time or the other, enjoyed government subvention or waiver except the ground handling companies.
He said as much as the forex issue affected the airlines and government intervened, apart from also intervening in the issues associated with spares parts importation, the ground handlers are also affected.
He said ground handling companies pay through their noses to import their equipment even in foreign currencies, adding that they neither get waiver on custom duties or get any assistance from government as exchange rate soars.
He said for years despite the increase of the dollar to Naira; the handling rates have remained the same even when the airlines have continued to adjust fares.
“The equipment we use are heavy, they are not manufactured in Nigeria, and it costs a lot to buy and import them, we pay a lot of duties, government has done a lot to help the airlines but there are other support companies that are not touched, government can also waive the import tariff for us like they did for airlines, they shough help us with policies that will stabilise our operations”, he said.
Apart from this, Agboarumi asked government through the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to intervene in the price war that has been created by unhealthy competition.
He said the NCAA can regulate the operations by setting standards for pricing, adding that due to this , foreign airlines pay a paltry sum of what they are supposed to pay for services to ground handling companies.
He added,”Let’s look at the banking industry for instance; there is a regulator that regulates their activities. For instance, the handling rates we pay in Nigeria has not changed over the years despite the fall in naira to dollars and other major currencies. The airlines have consistently change their fares, but we have not done that for so many years. We still operate with the same tariff that we have been operating up to the time naira was N165 to a dollar and regrettably today, the rate has grown more than double.”
“What it costs us to buy a ground handling equipment today has grown astronomically. It is not that the cost has changed, but whereby we were spending one naira to buy a ground handling equipment before, by the time we source for foreign exchange, you will see that it has gone to about N3. That’s the situation we have found ourselves. But, the airlines still pay the same amount of money they have been paying us even before then”, he said.