Forex Scarcity Worries Airlines, Operators Seek Intervention

CEO of Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi

Chinedu Eze

The Chief Executive Officer of Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi has said the inability of Nigerian airlines to secure foreign exchange was affecting their operations.

According to him, owing to this, domestic carriers are finding it difficult to acquire spares, carry out maintenance of their aircraft, pay for technical training of personnel and lease aircraft.

Sanusi, while speaking with THISDAY, therefore called for intervention by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The Aero CEO said the situation was one of the reasons why the operators had been demanding palliatives from government, saying because if government fails to rescue the airlines many of them would eventually go under.

Sanusi stressed that the airlines cannot continue to source forex from the autonomous markets, saying banks were not even willing to assist in this regard. According to him, airlines had defaulted in payment of subscriptions and leases due to the difficulty in securing forex.

“The local airlines will survive only if the federal government provides foreign exchange for them. We cannot continue to source foreign exchange from autonomous markets at N470 to a dollar even if you go there, you might find it difficult to find the dollar,” he said.

Lamenting the situation in the sector, the Aero CEO explained that this had greatly affected his airline as he had returned helicopters and aircraft engines to their owners because the company could not source forex to pay for the leases.

“I have returned two engines, I have returned helicopter, subscription for Boeing is due and am still trying to plead with them to give me another month because am still pleading with the bank to give us foreign exchange and they are saying the waiting period is three months, nobody will wait for you three months to pay your lease rental or to pay your subscription.”

Sanusi noted that efforts being made by the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) to draw the attention of the federal government appeared not to be yielding results.

“We are looking for dollars to pay for subscriptions to pay for engine leases and to sustain our operations.

“Yes, I am sure the AON has written and a lot of people have written but we would also make a position known and I believe the federal government understands that they must intervene immediately or airlines will going under one by one,” he warned.

On his part, the Chief Executive and Managing Director of Overland Airways, Captain Edward Boyo lamented that airlines revenue was little in the airfares charged passengers because of the high amount of tax added to the fare.

“We, the airlines are just tax collectors with no compensation at the end of the day. Imagine from the $99 fare you have to pay: Navigational Charges, Landing fee, Parking fee, Handling fee, Fuel charge, Power by the Hour, Fuel and Oils. Lease cost, Admin, Finance and other costs,” Boyo said.