• Says challenges will be over soon
Dele Ogbodo in Abuja
The Minister of State for Aviation, Mr. Hadi Sirika, wednesday appealed to Emirates, Kenya Airways and other foreign airlines which threatened recently to suspend flights from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja due to the scarcity of foreign exchange and dwindling passenger traffic to reconsider their decisions.
The airlines had said scarcity of foreign exchange and dwindling passenger traffic were impacting negatively on their operations
While appealing to the operators not to suspend or downgrade operations, he promised that the current challenges besetting the industry and other sectors of the economy would soon become a thing of the past.
This was contained in a statement signed by the Deputy Director of Press in the Ministry, Mr. James Odaudu, who revealed that the appeal was made when Sirika hosted the West African Regional Manager for Emirates Airlines, Mr. Manoj Gopi Nair, in his office in Abuja.
According to the minister, government was not unaware of the issues that have created operational difficulties for both domestic and foreign airlines, such as foreign exchange, aviation fuel and infrastructural deficiencies.
He said government had been up and doing to ensure the creation of an environment that is both enabling and profitable for them to operate.
According to the minister, the recent concession given to airlines by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was to enable the airlines procure the required Foreign Exchange to clear the backlog of matured Foreign Exchange obligations.
He described the CBN intervention as a direct fall-out of efforts of the ministry to minimize the identified challenges.
Sirika also promised to immediately take up the Emirates complaints about foreign exchange with the relevant authorities.
On aviation fuel which had cripple the industry in the recent past, Sirika said the situation had almost normalised as a result of government intervention that has made it easier for importers to bring in the product.
On infrastructural deficiencies, especially the runway at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, the minister promised that government was already handling the runway deficiency at the Abuja airport.
According to him, long-term solution remained in the concession of the major airports for which government had already commenced the process, adding that all these efforts would address the problems of infrastructure at the airports.
He appealed to the management of Emirates and other airlines to reconsider their decisions to either suspend their operations or scale them down, considering the adverse effects on their long-standing costumers and the benefits they had reaped in the past.
In a remark, Nair said he came to inform the minister of the decision of the Emirates management to scale down its operations in the country with the suspension of operations from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja.
He said the decision was based on the airline’s inability to make ends meet in view of the difficulties in accessing foreign exchange for its operations.
He also listed the high cost of aviation fuel and the state of the Abuja Airport runway as other impeding factors.
Nair however promised to transmit Sirika’s appeal and official commitment to address the issues to the Emirates management for a possible reconsideration of the decision.