Developing Aviation Downstream Sub-sector

Bankole Bernard

Chinedu Eze

There has been allegations that the downstream sector of the aviation industry is being neglected by the regulatory authority, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), other concerned agencies and that the Ministry of Transportation does not even pay attention to the sub-sector.

Hence, it is believed that the sub-sector lacked government supervision and only managed by the private sector.

These include the travel agencies, handling companies, catering concerns, hospitality groups, fuel marketers and others that may not be so visible but play critical roles for the success of flight operations.

Recently the Managing Director of Finchglow Group and the President of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), Bankole Bernard spoke to aviation correspondents on how to develop the downstream sub-sector of the industry and the significant role it plays in the air transport.

Bernard confirmed that the downstream sub-sector is not being given the attention it deserves and stressed that because of this neglect, the industry has not been able to acquire reliable data that are very important for the growth of the industry.
“The downstream sector of the aviation industry is hugely neglected. When you look at the pyramid, it is very thin at the top and very broad at the base.

“That is the way business is structured in every industry, which means it is at the base that you are going to find the so called commoners, the downstream of every industry. Any government that doesn’t pay attention to the downstream sector will find it difficult to effect growth and development.

“So, it means that if the policies that are being implemented don’t support the downstream sector, the desired growth and development will not be achieved. It means we really need to pay attention to the downstream sector by ensuring there is proper regulation and proper structure of the downstream sector so that every tom, dick and harry don’t just go into the business.

“When you are going into the business, you understand what that industry is all about before going into it, but when the downstream sector is not regulated, everyone goes into it to mess it up for everybody. That is what needs to be checked,” Bernard said.
Interestingly, the NCAA last week said that it would blacklist travel agencies that do not register with the regularity authority and promised to reinforce its supervisory role of the subsector.

The NANTA President said if the downstream sector of the aviation industry were properly regulated and monitored, and restricted to the citizens of the country, as it is done in other parts of the world, it would nudge the growth of the industry, create jobs and reduce capital flight from the country.

“If the downstream is supported you will find out that the desired growth will happen and the impact will be felt by the citizens and issues of capital flight will be reduced. When you talk of capital flight, it is because the downstream sector has been largely neglected,” he said.

Bernard also spoke on the importance of having reliable data to guide the industry and said that if the upstream and downstream sub-sectors of the industry are closely monitored and regulated, government should be able to acquire reliable data on the activities of the industry.

“There should be a central data system that is going to be managed by an independent body that will coordinate the entire aviation industry. We have the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) coming out with their data, have we been able to say correctly the number of cars going to the airport, this is how the car park should be like or we just built a car park?

“We built a car park for instance in 2019, but can’t even meet the needs of 2015. This is so because there is no proper data for somebody to carry out a research that will lead to development of infrastructure in the aviation industry.

“What I am proposing is an autonomous central data system so that it can collate data, just as IATA is doing in other countries, but the good thing about the other countries is that they have their own data.

“Though, we have the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), which gets its information from FAAN, NCAA and NAMA, so, they are not in the control of their information and this defeats the purpose completely. We need an independent data company for our aviation industry in order to boost effectiveness, rather than having compromised figures,” he said.

The NANTA President said it is when reliable data is collected that the development in the industry would be captured, adding that such data would help investors who wish to invest in the sector to make projections and plans in committing resources in the industry.

“We have not been able to display the viability of our industry to the government, which has made the level of investments low in the sector. So, data will help us a great deal. The onus is really on us,” Bernard said.