Experts in the aviation industry have called on the government to henceforth initiate and implement policies to make foreign carriers partner local operators.
The experts insisted that such has been the practice in many countries, saying that governments do so to save indigenous carriers, encourage local skills development and create employment.
The experts who spoke at the League of Airports and Aviation Correspondents (LAAC) 23rd Annual Conference held in Lagos Wednesday, said it would be the way government could break the air transport market that is fully dominated by foreign carriers.
The Chairman of Medview Airline, Alhaji Muneer Bankole, in his speech noted that the aviation industry was indispensable to the socio-economic development of any country and that Nigeria was not an exception. He regretted the liquidation of the Nigeria Airways Limited (NAL).
Bankole, lamented that local airlines were yet to measure up to the expectation of maximising the country’s potential, despite its almost 200 million population to their advantage, which other foreign airlines were feasting on.
He said the industry started nose-diving from the late 80s through politicisation, overbearing governmental intervention and policy inconsistency, hence gestation period of domestic airlines falls within the average of five to 10 years due to scarcity and high cost of aviation fuel, poor facility at nation’s airports, obsolete infrastructure, multiple taxations, shortage of forex for airline operators, multiple designation for the foreign carriers and absence of Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility.
A former Director General of the Nigerian Civil Authority, Dr. Harold Demuren, said Nigeria needs stable legal and regulatory frameworks to grow the industry and attributed the challenge facing the sector to policy summersault.
Also the CEO, Top Brass Aviation, Capt. Roland Iyayi, said the Nigerian air travel market was fragmented, which has led to disruptive competition.
He said the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), should have the safety and development of the industry in their purview instead of focusing consistently safety to the extent that the airline industry is overregulated.
The experts said the Federal Ministry of Transportation through the Minister of Aviation and other relevant regulatory agencies need to reflect on the National Aviation Policy in conjunction with various stakeholders holistically.
They said there should be appropriate policy statement regulating double taxation, noting that there is the need for this to be quickly looked into in conjunction with the exorbitant cutthroat charges levied against Nigeria carriers to various West African routes, particularly francophone states.
The stakeholders recommended that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) need to make Nigerian airlines survive by coming up with policies that are consistent, deliberate and focused, addressing issues holistically; that government needs to be supportive and get the right people in place to manage the aviation agencies.
They also recommended that the airports should be licensed on three tier levels to avoid unviability of the facilities; that foreign and local airlines should be encouraged to partner with government’s assistance so that domestic airlines should participate and benefit from international flight operations, which currently is dominated by international carriers.
The experts also stressed that airline operators should be faithful in paying their charges to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to ensure infrastructure acquisition and maintenance; that the government should look into protecting the local carriers to remain in business with an enabling environment, contrary to the current situation where prices of aviation is arbitrary, high and sometimes scarce.