Friday, 9 September 2016

Travel agencies urge FG to declare state of emergency

Second Deputy President, National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), Kabir Maiwada (left); National Publicity Secretary, Olumuyiwa Salami; National President, Bankole Bernard; National treasurer, Zackary Abdulllahie; First Deputy President, Susan Akporiaye and Vice-president North, Aliyu Abdullhahi at the NANTA press briefing held in Lagos recently
Worried about the recent development in the aviation sector, travel agencies in the country have urged the Federal Government (FG) to save the sector by declaring a state of emergency.

The agencies, under the aegis of National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), said situation in the industry is now dire and barring government’s intervention, it will collapse.

President of NANTA, Bankole Bernard, said while other countries are maximising the potentials of aviation to develop their economy, “ours is already retrogressing amidst unfavourable policies and mismanagement.”

Bernard told reporters that his members of over 6000 are the downstream arm of the aviation industry and would be worst-hit by its misfortune.

He recalled that the precarious situation started with funds of the foreign airlines getting stuck in the economy and loss of about 40 per cent when the naira was partially devalued.

“In the process, Iberia and United Airlines left. Emirates had its two daily flights to Lagos from two to one. Just recently, Aero Contractors suspended flight operations because they have to do maintenance. We don’t know which airline is next. If domestic carriers are closing shop, we will begin to travel by road. The implication is that our Lagos to Abuja and Port Harcourt passengers among others may now be traveling by road.

“Ghana, seeing our deficiency in holding our aviation together has reduced price of fuel by 20 per cent and position the Accra airport at the new West African aviation hub. They are also working to ensure that their national carrier comes alive. By the time they are through, it means more jobs and revenue loss for Nigeria.

“Over 3000 jobs are threatened in the air travel business with airlines withdrawing. While other countries are surviving on aviation alone, ours is worsening. Government needs to do something urgently,” he said.

He noted that the state of the domestic airlines are not beyond remedy, but government must improve the ease of doing business.

“The greatest challenge for the domestic airlines today is the inability to source for funds at low interest rate. Such has not been made available and it is affecting their operations. It is a known fact that Nigeria is one of the most expensive places to do business in the world. For a domestic airline to survive in this kind of tensed environment is a whole lot.

“We believe that if the government comes to their aid with a well-structured plan, we will start to see the necessary development. As it stands today, we can see that almost all of them have financial challenges and all financially weak.

“Their purchasing power has gone down as well. Servicing the aircraft and buying its spare parts are all in foreign exchange that is not even available for them to meet their obligations. It is a huge challenge on them, the industry and we all are affected.

He berated the government for the decrepit state of the country’s aerodromes, explaining that virtually all the airports are in sorry state.

“Nigerian airports are nothing to write home about. They are in decrepit shape and that is why I maintain that an emergency needs to be declared in aviation to stem the tide.”

Bernard lamented the poor state of Abuja airport runway, saying the facility poses huge risk to airlines.

He observed that recently, South African Airways had its aircraft damaged when it landed on the pot-hole ridden runway, causing inconveniences to passengers, airlines and other users. But given the paltry state of infrastructure at the airports, it has almost become impossible for tourism to grow, he said.

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