Algeria, December 26, 2017

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Good year for Nigeria’s aviation

Very eventful year
The aviation industry in the year 2017 is one that can be described as successful and eventful.
Nigeria asserted its relevance in Africa’s aviation recently and over the past couple of years. its airlines have rapidly expanded into West Africa, Europe, Middle East the United States.
As we enter into 2018, there is hope that there would be continued substantial activity, which is expected in that sector.
Despite some teething problems, it could be summarised as one of the best years for aviation in recent times.

Airlines profits, others waned
It was a year profitability dropped so sharply, no thanks to recession that ravaged Nigeria’s economy. Thankfully, Nigeria’s exit out of recession brought a glimmer of hope despite the fact that the economy is still very fragile.
The year brought excruciating pain to carriers, aviation agency and other support service providers, who depend solely on foreign exchange. There are three key factors threatening Nigeria’s airline industry.

Arik, Aero take-over crises
The take-over of Arik early in the year, precisely last February shook the entire sector. The signs that the carriers were haemorrhaging were visible. Arik’s case was more pathetic because it did not fulfil its potential as it left many disappointed. The carriers, particularly Arik were enmeshed in serious financial mess – leading the Asset Management Corporations of Nigeria (AMCON) to take-over the airline over alleged N500 billion debts.
The take-over exposed some management lapses in the private sector. Some analysts say subsequent revelations of misapplication of resources by Arik and Aero suggest supervisory laxity, which has led to the failure of the private sector, hitherto regarded as relatively reliable.
A source that pleaded anonymity, explained that both Arik and Aero were established by autocratic hands on founders who in the case of Arik Air, made horrible mistakes early on in the history of the airline and in the case of Aero – a series of missteps along the way.

Abuja airport runway ‘magic’
The year also witnessed the completion of the Abuja airport runway rehabilitation. The plan to shut the airport for repairs shocked everyone and was initially met with resistance. But the government’s decision to go ahead with it and to finish it within six months was remarkable.
The Abuja Airport became operational in 1982. The runway had exceeded its life span by over 14 years with its closure many said was inevitable because of the damage the potholed runway had caused to foreign airlines in particular.
The government was applauded for the feat of carrying out a major rehabilitation and reconstruction of the facility in just six months.

Olateru brings life to AIB
Since his appointment by the Federal Government on January 13, 2013, Commissioner, Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) Akin Olateru, moved speedily to reposition the agency to one that is vibrant and result oriented by first resuscitating its almost moribund accident laboratory, training and retraining of workers, signing of a pact with University of Ilorin for students to use it for research purposes and the release of over seven accident reports, including that of Dana that occurred in 2012 in an unprecedented manner. These also included recommendations that are far reaching. Over 10 reports had since been released by Olateru since he assumed office.

Medview goes to the market
One other positive is the informed decision of Nigeria’s flag carrier airline, Medview to be quoted on the country’s Stock Market. Only ADC took such decision.
With the listing, the company is showing its commitment to a culture of strong corporate governance, excellence, professionalism and efficient services to its passengers, as well as providing increased returns to its shareholders.
The airline on December 7, 2017 began flight operations to Dubai, making it the Nigerian carrier ever to venture on Dubai route after Virgin Nigeria and Arik’s debacle on the lucrative route.
The country has always played in the biggest aviation league by consistently retaining the United States Aviation Category One Aviation status, which indicates that the country’s safety oversight is at par with other globally recognized countries.

Ease of doing business pays off
In June 2017, the Federal Government facilitated the ease of doing business in the country via the airports. Not a few believed that solving Nigeria’s aviation problem is not rocket science and one that is very achievable. Like magic, sanity returned to Nigeria’s premier airport, the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, courtesy Acting President Yemi Osinbajo’s executive orders, sought ways to ease difficulty in doing business in the country. First was resolving the chaotic and not too straight forward issuance of visa on arrival for foreigners coming to the country.
In other climes, it takes less than 20 minutes to check-in and go through screening. In Nigeria, it could take as long as three hours or more. The manual screening by the uniformed is not only archaic but also no longer in tandem with global practice.

NAMA upgrades facilities
The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) took advantage of the Kaduna airport repair to upgrade its Instrument Landing System (ILS) to guarantee safer airspace.

Concession controversies
One issue that dominated and has continued to dominate discourse in the aviation industry is the planned concession of many of the international airports.
This has generated a lot of furore; unions and workers have rejected the policy, but stakeholders said it was the best way to guarantee efficiency and to provide world-class facilities.
Stakeholders implore the government to ensure transparency; accountability and fairness to all stakeholders and participants, which are the hallmark in a concessioning process and will advertently tally with the “Ease of Doing Business” model.
The government had last September approved the concession of the two main airports in Nigeria, located at Lagos and Abuja. Osinbajo announced the development at the presidential quarterly business forum in Abuja.

The Federal Government had made concessioning of the two major airports and the floating of a national airline as some of its plans for the aviation sector.

History-making airports certification
Last September, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) certified Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, showing that it had met all the processes of the International Civil Organisation (ICAO).
These aerodromes before now, particularly those in Lagos and Abuja had remained uncertified since over 60 years of aviation in Nigeria and 38 years since the Lagos airport was built.
This is coming 11 years after Nigeria first began the process but had consistently failed to get any of its international aerodromes certified to conform to international standards.
Presenting the certificate to the Managing Director of FAAN, Saleh Dunoma, the Director-General of NCAA, Capt. Usman Muhtar, said a lot of work went into making Nigeria’s biggest airports to scale some of the toughest hurdles in airports certification.
Muhtar disclosed that the first attempt to certify the Lagos airport started in 2006, adding that despite concerted efforts and continuation in 2008, certification could not be achieved.
Airport certification proves that you have met your states minimum requirements at the time of the regulator’s audit.
A visibly elated Managing Director of FAAN, Saleh Dunuma, said to achieve the success, careful planning and execution of these projects are the panacea for more profit for airlines just that it would help the aerodromes to maintain high safety standards.

Last Line
No doubt, 2017 proved to be a relatively very successful year for aviation in Nigeria. It is hoped that that 2018 will be a more successful year for the sector.

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