Against the backdrop of the ravaging effects of COVID-19 pandemic on the aviation sector, the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) would require not less than N50billion bailout to remain afloat and as well prevent job losses and the economy going.
This was disclosed yesterday by the Senate Committee on Aviation led by its chairman, Senator Smart Adeyemi, at a press briefing in Abuja.
The federal government had approved N4billion palliative for the airline operators in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which the senate had also described as inadequate.
The senate panel noted that flying in Nigeria today was unsafe, hence the need to support the private operators pending when the nation can boast of a national carrier.
Adeyemi, who addressed journalists, said at a recent public hearing on six aviation bills, stakeholders discussed and agreed, among others, that the steps needed to bring about resuscitation and sustainability in the aviation industry was far beyond the capacity of the airline operators.
He added that it was agreed that it would require Executive Orders which must be adhered to, to revamp the ailing aviation industry.
“You would recall that the federal government, having considered impacts of the pandemic on the aviation industry, with a view to maintaining smooth operations, made the sum of N4 billion naira available as a bailout to these airline operators.
“With further and more critical intervention with airline operators in Nigeria, we gathered that approximately N50billion will be required to meet the requirements of airline operators.
“This increase in bailout fund is imperative if we are to keep our economy running, guaranty job security and mitigate retrenchment,” Adeyemi said.
The lawmaker explained how other African countries have bailed out their aviation sectors, wondering why Nigeria cannot do more to engender a safe aviation industry.
“In most nations, there are special considerations for airline operators because they must not cut corners. If the spare part is needed in three weeks time and it is not available and the operators decide to be managing, well you know what will happen.
“Let me explain what they are doing in some African countries so that you can understand what we are saying, because when you are convinced with your facts, we would say these are the facts that we have gathered. It is left for those who are in the industry to dispute our position but these are the information we have gathered.
“I want to put it on record that there is danger in flying in Nigeria today. There are instances of some planes skidding off the runway.
“We must support the airline operators pending when we have our own national carrier. But if we want to continue with the operators like most nations are doing today, we cannot afford to leave them on their own, because they will want to be in business and struggle to make profit, and by extension, there will be cutting corners,” Adeyemi added.
The senate committee chairman also lamented the non-implementation of policies by relevant government agencies aimed at developing the aviation sector.
“The customs department has not complied with the executive order to waive any form of taxation on importation of spare parts and commercial aircrafts,” he added.