Industry stakeholders on Wednesday berated the federal government for what they described as “wrong-headed policies, lack of vision and self-centredness”, which they said have been responsible for the retrogression of the aviation industry over the years.
The stakeholders including airline operators, airport managers, analysts, pilots, engineers and others accused government of being responsible for non-establishment of Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility anywhere in the country.
They noted that the lack of MRO facility in the country is a major setback which is partly responsible for the high demand of foreign exchange in the industry, lack of developed technical manpower and the inability for Nigeria to carry out C-checks and D-checks (aircraft maintenance) locally.
Specifically, the Chief Executive Officer of Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL), Capt Jari Williams said ferrying aircraft overseas for mandatory maintenance encourages capital flight and berated government for its lack of policy that would encourage local establishment of such facility in the country.
Williams noted that for any organisation to establish a viable MRO in the country, the federal government must give the initiator subvention, tax waivers, pioneer status and Free Trade Zone (FTZ).
He stated this while speaking on the topic titled, “First Class Maintenance Facility MRO for Nigeria: How Viable” at Aviation Round Table Safety Initiative quarter three breakfast meeting held in Lagos on Wednesday.
The BASL CEO recalled that when he was the Managing Director of Akwa Ibom International Airport (AKIA), he tried for six years to attract investors to develop and put on stream the Uyo Airport MRO but there was no favourable policy that would provide traction for investors to put their money into the facility.
He remarked that a new idea or project might not succeed if the initiator does not belong to a particular group, stressing that this should not be if the aviation industry must move forward.
He hinted that Aero Contractors would have established an MRO because of the experience gathered over the years for providing services in the oil and gas industry.
Williams said government’s complacence could discourage any investment in the country and noted that lack of commitment by government to the MRO facility in Uyo is one of the reasons why the project has remained uncompleted.
He added that while the Uyo MRO was under construction, a survey was carried on the number of Boeing airplanes in West Africa sub-region and it was discovered that the area has a lot of 737 aircraft.
The Akwa Ibom government he said invested huge amount of money in Uyo MRO but regretted that despite the investment and efforts made, the facility has not been completed.
According to him, “Government has no MRO policy, even the Federal Ministry of Aviation will come, inspect the facility and nothing happens and the Uyo MRO is there wasting away”
The BASL boss argued that for MRO to be in place in Nigeria, the federal government, the state where the facility is located and airlines must buy into it, adding that anything outside that Nigeria would just be going in circles.
On his part, the President of Aviation Round Table Safety Initiative, Mr Gbenga Olowo accused aviation stakeholders of singing discordant tunes, stressing that these tunes often times does not bring about growth.
He lamented that these tunes are based on parochial and personal gains, adding that the aviation industry is sick and that it was going beyond remedy.
Olowo said that though MRO is good for the industry to stop capital flight but the management, viability domestically, regionally and internationally must be discussed by the stakeholders.
He remarked that one of the challenges of MRO is who is going to finance the project and if international airlines would be willing to maintain their airplanes in Nigeria when the MRO is eventually set up.
Olowo said that Dollar scarcity, which is affecting airlines, 6,000 travel agencies in the country is a major issue that should be discussed by stakeholders and addressed by the federal government.
However, the federal government has said that it will not be involved in the establishment of Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO) planned by stakeholders in the industry.
The Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, who was represented by the Director of Operations and Training, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA),Capt. Abdulahi Sidi ,said that the government would only provide conducive environment for the project to thrive .
“Federal Government will not get involved in the setting up of MRO but will provide conducive environment for stakeholders to build the facility and for it to thrive,” Sidi said.