By Chinedu Eze
Airline operator and CEO of IRS Airlines, Alhaji Isiyaku Rabiu has called on Nigerian airlines to take advantage of the full implementation of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), saying that despite the initial hiccups, the policy would become profitable for the domestic carriers.
Rabiu however said that for Nigeria to take advantage of the treaty, the federal government would have to review the taxes and charges leveled on Nigerian airlines so that they would compete fairly with other airlines in the region, adding that at present Nigerian carriers are over taxed.
The IRS boss, who spoke recently in Kano said, “Nigerian airlines are very over-taxed, we have so many taxes and so many overheads, fuel has not been consistent, there is VAT, there is charges paid to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and others.
“We will save a lot of foreign exchange that we are paying to the foreign airlines if we encourage our airlines to take advantage of SAATM. We’ll build capacity, provide employment for the Nigerians in the aviation sector and our economy will thrive and grow even more.”
On the single African transport market, he said: “The Airline Operators of Nigeria has been complaining but this is something that has been done a long time ago since the Yamoussoukro agreement, the only thing I would say is for us to try to work harder, to try to make sure we infiltrate the market and for our government to give us the support we need.”
Rabiu who commented on the introduction of Lagos-Kano flight by Air Peace said anything that enhances competition and choice for customers and passenger is a welcome development.
He remarked that aviation is a very difficult business but Air Peace has been consistent in terms of reliability, in terms of keeping time, in terms of connecting different destinations in the country and that is what air travellers need in the country â€œbecause it unites our people, it gives them a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging and therefore, it is a welcome development.â€
â€œYou know for passenger and for everybody, the first thing is safety and Air Peace has a very good record on that and that is important. And secondly, it is reliability when you sell a ticket to a passenger on a certain day, make sure you’re there, and make sure you keep that time. Thirdly, courtesy and in-flight service and Air Peace has been known to do that too. It is a very difficult environment but customers want safety, reliability and quality service and Kano is a big station and we need more airlines because it gives passengers the choices in terms of fairs and time to their destination,â€ Rabiu said.