Hadi Sirika, Minister of State for Aviation
Hadi Sirika, Minister of State for Aviation

To reduce the cost of aviation fuel, Nigeria will soon begin its production. The Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika who announced this said its production in the country would regularise its supply and lead to a reduction in air fares.

Sirika, who spoke at a recent stakeholders’ forum in Abuja, said the government had approved duty waivers’ for importation of aircraft and spares to ensure the survival of domestic airlines.

The government, he said, was working on an aviation master plan which would be incorporated into the National Integrated Infrastructure Master Plan (NIIMP). He noted that without a sector master plan, it would be difficult for stakeholders to implement programmes that would be beneficial to the industry. He urged stakeholders to live up to their responsibilities with a view to taking aviation higher. The minister explained that government was concerned about aviation fuel challenges which were affecting the operations of domestic carriers.

Sirika said the Ministry of Aviation is working with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Ministry of Budget and National Planning and that of Finance to include airlines on priority list of its foreign exchange allocation, stating that government has opened this window for domestic carriers because of the huge challenges faced by operators who sell tickets in local currencies and are expected to buy aircraft spares and carry out maintenance in foreign currencies.

He spoke of government’s plans   to set up an Aviation Development Fund for industry entrepreneurs to get long-term funding at reasonable interest rates. Sirika believes that access to capital at single digit for airline operators will support growth and stability in the industry. He said that government is conscious of the need to protect indigenous operators and professionals, by ensuring that there is enforcement of expatriate quota system and policy review validation of foreign licence. “Currently, there are lots of trained professional aviators especially pilots that are unemployed in Nigeria, while foreign aviation professionals are taking these jobs meant for Nigerians and are paid in foreign currency,” he said.

He however assured that the problems of the sector are not without solution as government is planning to establish an Aviation Leasing Company to address issues bordering on limited access to capital and high cost of funds, huge debt profile, inadequate number of aircraft and high cost of leasing.

He said the need to restructure the industry has become imperative in the face of ageing work force, dearth of professionals as well as unsustainable level of staffing. “We need to begin to address these issues by focusing on capacity building, staff verification and biometrics, review of people processes and technology, drive for leaner organisations for the agencies, agencies becoming self accounting for efficiency and review of acts setting up agencies to upscale governance and reduce overlap in functions,” he said.

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