The Managing Director/CEO of Skyway Aviation Handling Limited, Rizwan Kadri, in a chat with journalists, said Nigeria can shore up her foreign earnings through export of agricultural produce. He however said government must support the farmers and infrastructure challenges addressed for this to happen. Chinedu Eze presents the excerpts:
How did the economic downturn affect SAHCOL in 2016?
Yes, 2016 was a very challenging year; definitely a lot of things that could have been achieved were a bit slow, as we could have done much better. We still have done well, it would have been worse than this but with a strong team, the services and facilities; we still managed to handle a lot of business. Although we had no control of what was coming in because of the challenges in the economy, as a result of dollar constraint, but we still did well. Yes it was a good year for us, although not as good as it would have been.
Looking at the fact that some airlines pulled out from Nigeria and more will leave the Abuja lucrative route because of the Abuja airport closure, how will this impact on your business?
It will definitely take a big chunk of our revenue because we are basically a ground handling company and a cargo warehousing company and we depend on what comes in. If airlines pull out, it will affect our bottom-line revenue earnings. We have put a lot of things in place, we have gotten down to good revenue management, re-inventing ourselves to a certain extent where we can mitigate a little of that impact. The impact is huge and we are still looking forward to 2017 to see how well or bad it is going to be.
Looking at federal government’s policy on export promotion in agricultural sector, what effort are you making in supporting the drive?
As a service provider, we make sure we align ourselves with the federal government’s vision and the best we can do is to keep our handling rate low; that is just N28, which is a small amount, compared to the costs we incur. We are encouraging perishables by enhancing our warehousing facilities. We are updating it now and adding more facilities to it. At the end of the day, the government has to do a lot in that sector. They have to make the roads motorable and build infrastructures. We are ready to support at any level. We are aligning ourselves and we are ready to go the extra mile to even reach out to the farmers.
What is the state of cargo export generally?
Export is slowly gradually increasing. We started with about 10 tonnes to 15 tonnes daily, we are now reaching 40 to 45 tonnes daily. Export is moving up and can do much better.
On the issue of helicopters brought into the country illegally recently, was SAHCOL trying to keep the names of the culprit away from the media?
There is nothing for us to hide. We are just a service provider; we had nothing to do with it. It came in and we were waiting for someone to clear it, Customs came in and took it to the warehouse. So, we were just silent observer in the whole thing. It has been given away. We have not even gotten money out of it and we still have close to N70 million to recover; whom to recover that from we do not know.
What is the volume of cargo handled by SAHCOL in 2016 vis-à-vis 2015?
For imports, we were doing about 31million tonnes in 2015 and 35 million in 2016. What is exported are yams, hair extensions, few vegetables. Unfortunately, we don’t have capacity at the moment; we also do not have the right packaging facilities. The yams that goes out from here, goes to Ghana and the same yam, gets standard in Ghana and is transported forward. We need all the facilities to be done by the government so our yams can be accepted in Europe. We are losing a lot to Ghana.
What were your challenges and major achievements in 2016?
In year 2016, the major challenge is that we have our warehouse and we make our money from handling whatever comes in but because of the dollar constraints, people do not import as much as they want to, otherwise, there is a huge demand for import. Apart from that, we didn’t have very major challenges. In 2016, we enhanced our service delivery, we are still putting in a lot of processes for ease of doing business, which is the reason we could pull a lot of the agents to clear goods from our warehouse, so people are now patronising us, clearing their goods through SAHCOL. The numbers are growing and airlines are coming down to us. We received Ethiopian Airlines and AirFrance/KLM last year and this was an achievement for us
What are your projections for 2017?
For 2017, we keep on our crusade to keep on increasing our infrastructures to meet the demand. This is the best time for us to reconsolidate ourselves and wait for the day in preparations that it is going to improve. We will keep on improving our products, services and marketing our products and give the best to our customers, so we can have more airlines coming to us in 2017.
How prepared are you to move your equipment to Kaduna airport to cater for your clients, especially the international airlines?
The government is taking the right step in the right direction to get the runway repaired. There are a lot of loopholes as the stakeholders were not taken into consideration that could be one of the reasons why none of the foreign airlines are willing to go to Kaduna. We are definitely going to lose a lot of revenue, if we make about N70 to N80 million out of Abuja in a month, we have lost that because there are staff sitting there, no one asked us what we think. If we have to move our equipment to Kaduna, we have to spend a lot of money on that and it is a huge burden on us. How many flights are we going to see in Kaduna? How much manpower we require there? We will put a request to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and should consider giving us something in return for the losses we are going to have.
Can you give us a recipe for what we will do to improve exports in Nigeria?
We do not have the oil now and so we need to look at other areas. The farmers are ready and we have a lot of hardworking people. We need infrastructure to enable them produce more and the only thing lacking is how to send it out. For that we need safety on the roads, we need to empower farmers, give them facilities for the seed and water. If they invest in these, the returns will be in ten folds. The road infrastructure has to improve, the freezing facilities also have to come in because the farmers are in remote places and for them to export, they have to come from one of the major airports, Lagos, Abuja, Kano. They need to transport and to do this, they need the refrigerators, fans. The government has to get into the global certification process because the goods are going out and they have to be accepted by other countries as coming from Nigeria. The government should have confidence in the products we have. The vegetable, mangos and yams can be acceptable and we have them. We have so much of space that we can export a lot.