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National carrier: Indigenous operators seek level-playing field

Indigenous carriers on Thursday said they anxiously look forward to the takeoff of the national carrier which was unveiled in London yesterday by the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika.

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Chairman of Air Peace, Mr. Allen Onyema said his airline is not afraid of the coming of the national carrier but it must not be used to frustrate existing carriers.

He spoke in Lagos today during the 22nd seminar organized by the League of Airport and Aviation Correspondents with the theme, “Financing Aviation Development Through Private Sector Partnership.”

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Onyema who led discussions at the seminar attended by key industry players and stakeholders also challenged operators to be open and speak the truth at all times in order to move the industry forward.

According to him, some so-called experts misadvised government on how to run the industry but their admonition was nothing but self-serving.

He pooh-poohed the suggestion in some quarters for the government to raise the minimum number of aircraft for a start-up airline to 20, stressing that such recommendation is counter-productive as it could kill some airlines.

On the national carrier, he said a level-playing ground must be provided for all operators and the existing carriers should enjoy same privilege like the national carrier.

“Government must do everything possible not to frustrate existing carriers because of private investment.

“The creation of a level-playing field remains critical to the sustenance of an effective aviation sector”, he said.

Onyema identified poor and inadequate airport facilities as the major bane of the industry; affirming that operators are carrying out business in the most unfriendly environment, adding that fleet expansion is not necessarily the way to go.

He posed serious thoughts on issues being canvassed in the industry bordering on: Forced Merger, cooperation on fleet, expertise and other areas.

Chairman of African Business Aircraft Association (AFBAA), Nick Fadugba, decried that Nigeria is not taking advantage of its huge market, saying foreign carriers are the beneficiaries.

He noted that there is a lot of uncertainty over the new national carrier because of the modality adopted for the project.

He said with government already in possession of two airlines – Arik and Aero, setting up another carrier would not have been necessary.

Fadugba noted that Nigeria embraced Open Skies for aviation without considering the huge impact, saying it could sound a death knell for other airlines.

Similarly, the Director General of Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Mr. Babatunde Irukera stressed the need for collaboration between operators and regulators to boost passenger experience.

In his presentation titled: “MRO Financing Options For Nigeria,” former Director General of NCAA, Dr. Harold Demuren, said operators must pool resources to set up a maintenance facility.

African markets for MRO, he noted, is over $2billion, which is a huge market that should be explored by African carriers and governments desirous to grow the aviation industry.

He said airlines could be small, weak and successful if it sticks to niche markets.

According to him, aircraft around the world are being modernised, which affects MRO needs, which must consider new technologies in aircraft manufacture.

Demuren decried the absence of MROs in West Africa taking cognizance at aircraft type available for line maintenance and the possibility of business for potential investors.

He noted that MRO is a hugely capital intensive ventures, saying partnerships through joint ventures is the way to go.

On his part, Managing Director, Medview Airlines, Muneer Bankole, harped on appropriate reportage to stamp out corruption from the system.

To avoid public trust abuse, the President of Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Ahmadu Illitrus, cautioned that PPP as a window for funding should be carried out more transparently by government; as a few cases carried out in Nigeria do not inspire public confidence.

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