The experts spoke during the second edition of the FAAN National Aviation Conference held in Abuja.
Aviation experts on Monday converged in Abuja to discuss the challenges hampering growth and development in Nigeria’s aviation industry in order to proffer sustainable solutions.
The experts spoke at the ongoing second edition of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) National Aviation Conference holding in Abuja.
This year’s conference, themed “Sustainability of the Aviation Industry in Nigeria,” hosts aviation experts from the private and public sectors, in an effort to chart the way forward for the development of Nigeria’s aviation industry amidst a myriad of challenges.
In his remarks, FAAN’s Managing Director, Rabiu Yadudu, explained that the agency’s primary aim of creating and institutionalising the conference is to provide a unified platform for all industry stakeholders to come together, with a view to discussing challenges within the sector and providing viable solutions.
“It is also our intention to use this forum to highlight available investment opportunities in the industry, in order to attract prospective investors, who are desirous of making great returns on their investments,” he said.
He emphasised that the conference would continue to serve as an open market, or meeting point for the private sector to tap into a world of opportunities to invest and generate incredible returns on their investments.
“We are happy that some State Governments and private investors, who participated at the maiden edition of this conference are already taking good advantage of the business opportunities available in the industry, and are already positioning their States and organisations strategically for greater productivity and profitability,” Mr Yadudu said.
Mr Yadudu noted that there are three models of sustainability including economic viability, environmental protection, and social equity, noting that sustainability can only be achieved through collaboration, control, communication, and commitment.
At the first edition of the conference last year, Nigeria’s Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, urged all relevant stakeholders in the industry to invest in airports across the country.
“Our four airports, for now, are being approved and designated as free zones. I want all of you to come and invest. Particularly, in Abuja, we have 12, 000 hectares of land or if my maths is correct, 24, 000 acres of land, all available as free zones in this federal capital territory,” the minister said at the time.
On Monday, Mr Sirika, who was represented by the ministry’s permanent secretary, Emmanuel Meribole, said he hopes that the recommendations that will evolve from the conference will impact the system in no small measure such that the nation’s aviation will further gravitate towards achieving globally acceptable Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS).
“…Undoubtedly, we have met with lots of brick walls and bureaucratic bottlenecks, yet we forged ahead decisively and now all the components are at the finishing lines, the foundation having been solidly laid,” the minister said.
During his presentation on the sustainability of aviation industry in Nigeria, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Director General, Shuaibu Nuhu, noted that the main challenges bedevilling the Nigerian aviation industry include operational costs, debts, poor access to foreign exchange, and high cost of aviation fuel.
“The cost of Jet A1 fuel is a major problem because it has tripled…,” he said.
Recently, the rising cost of aviation fuel and forex scarcity have worsened performance of operators in the sector in recent times. The ripple effect is evident in suspension of operations among airlines, increase in ticket fares, among others.
A review of air tickets prices across major domestic airline companies such as Air peace, Ibom Air, Max Air, and Azman among others shows that the minimum prices for air tickets rose significantly in recent months.
In her remarks, Senate Committee on Aviation Chairperson, Biodun Olujimi, explained that Nigeria’s aviation sector is bedevilled with several challenges, adding that the problem is that Nigeria cannot enforce many of its laws.
“The country’s aviation industry will suffer if there’s continuous astronomical increase in airfare,” she said.
Speaking further on aviation fuel during a panel session, Peter Dia, a representative of the Oil Marketers Association, said the rising cost of Jet A fuel is triggered by the high exchange rate of the dollars and importation charges.
“Unfortunately we are not producing Jet A fuel in Nigeria. We import all the Jet fuel we are selling in this country and then we continue to battle with taxes and charges from different agencies when the Jet fuel arrives Nigeria,” he said.
On his part, a former Director General of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, Roland Iyayi, emphasised that there is a need for Nigeria to mine data and develop a credible database for the entire aviation industry before talking about growing the sector.
“We need to see how we will be able to use what we have to get what we need,” he said, adding that airlines are at the nose of the aviation business and that there is a need to remove all the bottlenecks and constraints to growth.
“The future is bright if all the constraints in the sector can be removed,” he said.
Also, Matthew Pwajok, NAMA Director General, said the agency is looking at developing satellite communications, surveillance and navigation across major airports in the country but the facilities are capital intensive.
He said investing in satellite systems is a way forward for airlines to cut operational costs.
Similarly, Airports Council International Africa (ACI Africa) President, Emmanuel Chavez, noted that the future of the country’s aviation sector is bright and that Nigeria should leverage on its population size to attain success in the industry.
“The future of Nigeria is big, but there are more to work on in order to optimise success,” he noted.