Minister Assures Domestic Airlines of Access to Forex

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Chinedu Eze
The Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has assured airline operators that government will assist them to access foreign exchange for acquisition of aircraft parts and maintenance of their equipment.

The minister also promised that one of the refineries may be dedicated to refining aviation fuel in order to make the product available and together with the Controller General of the Nigerian Customs Services promising to look into the duty waiver for the importation of aircraft and spares.
Sirika gave the assurance in Abuja when the officials of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) led by its Chairman, Captain Nogie Meggison met him over the challenges faced by domestic airlines in their daily activities.

Sirika who took the AON officials to the Governor of Central Bank, Godwin Emefiele, over the issue of obtaining foreign exchange for their operations, said government was aware of the importance of dollars in the management of airline business and Emefiele also assured them of government’s support and promised that the apex bank would always come to their aid.

“It is common sense that you buy your airplane in hard currency, you maintain the airplane in hard currency, you buy the spares in hard currency, and even the fuel at some point is purchased in hard currency. So you must be able to access hard currency to operate as an airline,” Sirika said.
He also noted that aviation could contribute to the GDP and create jobs for Nigerian youths, adding that access to foreign exchange for spare parts was critical to remaining within the safety envelope of operation.

The CBN Governor therefore pledged to include aviation on the priority list in an effort to support domestic airlines to ensure they operate safely.
In a paper titled,“Airline of Nigeria Critical Points to the Honourable Minister of State Aviation,’ the AON Chairman, Meggison, identified five major challenges facing domestic airlines which include constraints to foreign exchange (Forex) access; availability, pricing and distribution of aviation fuel; taxes on importation of aircraft and its spare parts.

Other challenges include multiple taxes including VAT; obsolete infrastructure; upgrade of airport runways for 24 hours operations with navigational and landing aids; as well as 24 hours customs clearance of spare parts for aircraft on ground (AOG) among others.

The minister told the operators that he was not oblivious of their plight and challenges.
“The players in the industry are known. Their challenges are also known; at least to me. And I am trying and working hard to drive this through government for government to understand them. Our primary purpose in government and my duty as minister is to promote, protect, and develop businesses,” he said.

With regards to Jet A1, the minister said he had met with the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources who said that they would put the Port Harcourt refinery on-stream before the end of the year to begin to refine Jet A1, and also that with some investment they would get Kaduna back on-stream so that the more they refine the more the fuel would be available.

“We are committed to it, we will begin to produce it and if there is anything we can do to bring down the price we will do it. The whole essence of refining it locally is not only to make it available, but it will also make it cheaper. Because then the element of importation is removed,” Sirika said.