Airlines Allege Utterances By Govt Officials Threat to their Businesses

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CEO of Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi

Chinedu Eze

Airline operators have urged top government officials in the aviation sector to be mindful of their utterances, saying it is capable of hurting their business relationship with their international partners.

The airlines alleged that utterances of some government officials was a reflection that government does not have confidence in domestic operators, adding that such was affecting the image of the airlines in the international market.

According to them, owing to such criticism, which they also described as de-marketing, insurance companies have upped their premium on aircraft operated in Nigeria; while lessors are unwilling to lease aircraft to Nigerian airlines and even when they do it comes at high prices compared to what obtains in other parts of the world.

The airlines also alleged that as a result of the situation, suppliers are now reluctant to offer them spare parts.

The Chairman and CEO of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, had informed THISDAY that in February when a top government official in aviation attacked local carriers and said they were heavily indebted and insolvent, the following day, his airline had received a mail from its lessors to terminate a deal to lease aircraft to his company.

“I have mails to show that I was about getting some Boeing B777 but on February 17 the official made a comment that made the lessor to withdraw the deal. The company said their risk department picked the statement from the government official and withdraw the business deal. They terminated the lease agreement,” he said.

The operators also called on the federal government to make it clear that they have suspended the planned national carrier, saying that anytime issues concerning the project is raised it hurts their business.
They said that lessors and other international partners believe that a national carrier in Nigeria would kill existing airline.

The CEO of Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi, had said investors that were previously interested in investing in Aero Contractors, which was put up for sell by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) withdrew their interest when government announced that it would float a national carrier.

Investment and aviation lawyer, Emeka Nwigwe also said the national carrier question was cited at some of aircraft leasing and investment negotiation he had in the past two years.

“They always cited the national carrier project, saying that other airlines would play second fiddle when the airline becomes operational. It is because of this fear that some investors withdraw their interest in investing in one Nigerian airline,” Nwigwe said.

When the issue was raised recently in Abuja by the Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, the airlines said that they started getting similar calls from the partners who wanted government to categorically make their plan on the national carrier clear.

“If they want it as private investment let the private investors come and float the airline. We are not against new airlines coming in.

“We are not against that, but we are against using the privileges of the country and giving it to one man and calling it a national carrier. If you said it is private sector driven, so let the private sector person come and incorporate and apply and start running.

“You don’t need to put government’s money into the hand of an individual.
The Chairman of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), Captain Nogie Meggison, had argued that a national carrier would not succeed in Nigeria.