Air Traffic Controllers Addresses Jet Fuel, FX Liquidity Crises
Yesterday, to prevent the collapse of local aviation, air traffic controllers (ATCs) urged the Federal Government to support the local production of aviation fuel and the alleviation of the foreign exchange (FX) liquidity crisis.
The ATCs said that the government had overlooked long-term solutions to the enduring problems of fuel and FX for far too long at the annual general meeting of the Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) in Ibadan, Oyo State.
Their worries were not unrelated to the terrible impact of the naira free-fall, the lack of FX, and the recent skyrocketing price of jet fuel.
Not only have prices more than doubled in order to decrease passenger flow, but at least two airlines have also gone out of business, leaving the survivors to struggle with tight budgets and diminished capacity.
Prof. Anthony Kila, who served as the event’s chairman, stated that the economy as a whole had been affected by the fuel crisis’s cascading effects.
Kila claimed that after the telecommunications sector, aviation will be the next to link people and goods. The government should therefore prevent the energy crisis from impeding the sector’s and the economy’s overall growth.
He added: “We should create an aviation sector that can create a movement for commerce. The issue of energy crisis should not be allowed in the industry. If we want to make the aviation industry viable, we should look at commerce.
“As a solution, the government can look at establishing a bank of aviation, which will attract other players into the sector, especially investors. Aviation leaders should come together and ensure aviation fuel is refined in the country,” Kila said.
The Professor of Strategy and Development demanded that ATCs in the nation receive greater respect, adding that they are vital to maintaining safety both on the ground and in the air.
Capt. Fola Akinkuotu, the recently-retired Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), predicted that as long as aviation fuel was imported into the nation, both its pump price and airfares would skyrocket.
Akinkuotu bemoaned the fact that a one-way business class ticket between Lagos and Abuja cost N50,000 just three months prior. Today’s fare is more than quadruple what it was.
In addition to the fuel restrictions, he urged airline companies to purchase cutting-edge machinery to deal with the issues of outdated planes and excessive operating costs.
He said, “There should be appropriate financial institutions where the airlines can lend money at single digit interest rates to acquire modern aircraft. If the current challenges in the sector are not properly addressed, like the issue of ageing aircraft, we will continue to pay more for flights.
“Three months ago, a business class ticket Lagos-Abuja was just N50, 000 and it rose to N75,000, but today, it is N150, 000 for the same ticket. The government should address the challenges to save the sector.”