By Chinedu Eze

The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has called on the federal government to as a matter of urgency address the acute shortage of aviation fuel, known as Jet A1 in the country.

The call was made by the Chairman of AON, Captain Nogie Meggison on the heels of the lingering aviation fuel scarcity of the product , which resulted in 50 percent delays or cancellation of flights.

“We have been forced to cry out about the perennial problem at this juncture because it continues to put us in a difficult situation to go an extra mile to fulfill our obligations to our esteemed customers in spite of the inconveniences that go with it. However, we are at the mercy of the oil marketers and many times our hands are tied such that we are left with no other option than to cancel flights,” Meggison declared.

The AON Chairman noted that together with the shortage of Jet A1 the marketers have been increasing the price of the product consistently to an unbearable point.

“Till April this year, I bought Jet A1 fuel for N105 a liter. About a month ago the price jumped to N145. Two weeks later it rose to about N200 a liter. Today the price has skyrocketed above N230 a litre. This has greatly increased our operational cost.

“For instance, considering that the cost of fuel accounts for about 40 percent of the operational cost of most airlines, the colossal rise in price of the product by over 100 percent has equally increased the operational cost astronomically. In the light of this, our feasibility studies and financial projections are greatly threatened thereby putting the airlines in a dangerous and difficult financial position,” Meggison explained.

He however said that despite these challenges the airlines “can’t increase ticket prices in order not to discourage our dear customers that have been seriously stretched due to the economic hard time facing them and their disposable income seriously reduced or erased.”

AON noted that for most air travellers, the alternative means of travel is going by road, which its importation is getting government’s support, unlike that of aviation fuel.

“Airlines on the other hand don’t have such foreign exchange support or availability from our government with regards to helping to make jet fuel available to airlines or at an affordable price.

Petrol forex allocation is being given regularly to importers at N285 to the dollar, and the road transporters don’t pay 5 percent VAT or the regulatory 5 percent ticket sales tax or any of the other multiple taxes being charged to the airlines today, where as much as 35 percent of a total ticket price are taxes and levies,” Meggison observed.

He said apart from the question of no support in fixed rate of jet fuel, government is not making dollar available for the airlines to carry out their operations so it would seem like the airlines are being undermined.

“During a recent visit to the Honorable Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika by AON and other airline operators, the Minister promised to use his respected office to bear on all those concerned to urgently address the crippling fuel shortage and to come up with a lasting solution, even if it means AON getting forex allocation directly from government to import its own fuel as it is currently being done with petrol. The Minister assured the delegation of his understanding and promised to look into the matter,” he said.

Meggison therefore appealed to government to note that  the operation of domestic airlines is one of the mainstay and a pivot for any country’s economy as well as a catalyst for recovery of the fragile Nigerian economy.

“We are looking forward to the Honourbale Minister of State for Aviation to come up with a quick fix before the Nigerian airlines are pushed or forced out of business,” the AON Chairman said.