There have been reports about aged aircraft operated by Nigerian airlines. Some of such reports had indicated that Nigeria operates the oldest aircraft in Africa.
However, UK’s based The Telegraph, recently reported 10 world’s oldest aircraft in the world and none came from Nigeria; one came from South Africa, Interair with registration number ZS-IJJ.
That is why Nigerian airline operators are alleging that the publication was meant to demonise Nigerian airlines by those who are clamouring for national carrier. They noted that when the defunct Nigerian Airways existed it never sustained itself, saying government subsidised its existence.
But now that the Minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika is talking about private sector-driven airline, indications showed that not many foreign investors would be willing to invest in the airline because of the inability of the government to keep to agreements.
THISDAY learnt from some of the operators that since Richard Branson complained about how the Nigerian government frustrated agreement reached when it floated Virgin Nigeria Airways and forced him to withdraw his investment in the airline, “no foreign investor takes Nigeria seriously as far as investing in aviation is concerned.”
Former Director of Engineering, Medview Airline, Lookman Animaseun told THISDAY that the question was not about how old an aircraft is, but its airworthiness. He said an aircraft is as good as its last maintenance.
After 2017 was recently marked as the safest year in aviation in recent times, in 2018 there have been three aircraft with three fatalities and these accidents involved very new aircraft.
For instance, the Lion Air crash involving Boeing 737 MAX that was barely three months old killed 188 passengers last October. The aircraft which was delivered to the airline in July started operation on August 15 and crashed on October 31, 2018.
It is the view of many industry experts that what is important about an aircraft is its maintenance status, the efficient regulation and the determination of the airline to ensure that the aircraft is airworthy; not its age.
Spokesman of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Sam Adurogboye said the age of an aircraft does not really matter, adding that what matters is the maintenance of the aircraft and the efficiency of the regulatory authority.
Also, the Chief Operating Officer of Air Peace, Mrs. Oluwatoyin Olajide, was of the view that there is a calculated attempt to run Nigerian airlines down. She said that this was deliberate and alleged that the report was intended to discredit the domestic carriers.
“The other day a major government official was mocking airlines with many aircraft and referring to airlines in the past that had such number of aircraft yet they eventually collapsed. Also the Minister of State, Aviation recently said, “All this sudden growth to over 20 planes, we have seen it before. We had seen it in Chanchangi, we had seen it in Kabo and of recent in Arik Air and yet they are inefficient. We have given them international routes but they don’t have capacity to operate them.
“This is coming from a minister that is supposed to protect the airlines. One expected that the minister should meet the airlines and find out the challenges that we have.
“If they are really interested in the growth of Nigerian airlines, we expect them to want to know what they will do to help us so that we don’t go the way of the other airlines. I feel so bad to suspect that these officials may be praying for our downfall,” she observed.
Olajide, also observed that there was calculated attempt to diminish and demoralise Nigerian airlines and alleged that it was a planned effort by those who wish to convey the feeling that the only way to get viable airlines in Nigeria is to float a national carrier.
“It is the responsibility of the government to protect local investors who have put their money in risky ventures like the airline business. The other day Tony Elumelu, the Chairman of Heirs Holdings said if local investors are burnt in business, foreign investors would not come in to invest and noted that no amount of roadshows will make foreign investors come if local ones are failing. “But it is unfortunate that it is government media channel that is supposed to be for every Nigerian and ought to be neutral that is used to diminish Nigerian airlines because they are owned by private concerns,” she noted.