By Sade Williams
An appeal has gone to foreign airlines operating in Nigeria who are in the process of downgrading or suspending their operations in the country to reconsider their plans and decisions, as the challenges currently besetting the industry and other sectors would soon become things of the past.
Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika made the appeal when he received the West African Regional manager for Emirates Airlines, Manoj Gopi Nair in his office.
According to the Minister, government was not unaware of the issues that have created operational difficulties for both domestic and foreign airlines, such as Foreign Exchange, Aviation fuel and infrastructural deficiencies saying that government has been up and doing to ensure the creation of an environment that is both enabling and profitable for them to operate.
He recalled the recent concession given to airlines by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to enable the airlines procure the required Foreign Exchange to clearthe backlog of matured Foreign Exchange obligations. He described the CBN intervention as a direct fall-out of efforts of the Ministry to minimize the identified challenges. He also promised to immediately take up the Emirates complaints about Foreign Exchange with the relevant authorities.
Speaking on the issue of aviation fuel which had earlier threatened to cripple the industry in the recent past, Sirika said the situation had almost normalized as a result of government intervention that has made it easier for importers to bring in the product.
On infrastructural deficiencies, especially the runway at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, the Minister said while the government was already handling the issue, the long-term solution remained in the concession of the major airports for which government had already commenced the process. That, he said, would address the problems of infrastructure at the airports.
He therefore appealed to the Management of Emirates and other airlines to reconsider their decisions to either suspend their operations or scale them down, considering the adverse effects on their long-standing costumers and the benefits they had reaped in the past.
The Regional Manager, West Africa, of Emirates,Manoj Gopi Nair had earlier told the Minster that he was in his office to brief him on the decision of the Emirates Management to scale down its operations in Nigeria, with the suspension of operations from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
He said the decision was based on the airline’s inability to make ends meet in view of the difficulties in accessing Foreign Exchange for its operations. He also listed the high cost of aviation fuel and the state of the Abuja Airport runway as other impeding factors.
He however promised to transmit the Aviation Minister’s appeal and official commitment to address the issues to the Emirates Management for a possible reconsideration of the decision.