Players in Nigeria’s aviation industry have said the sector’s fortunes in the country have been declining and static over the 62 years of independence, despite the potential for growth.
Stakeholders specifically said that at independence in 1960, the country could boast of having a flag carrier in Nigeria Airways, excellent maintenance facilities and well-trained staff, but decried that 62 years later, the industry has been brought to its knees because of corruption. , political upheavals, inexperienced staff, especially at the regulatory level, and a free fall of the naira against major foreign currencies.
Engineer Femi Adeniji, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NIGAME Aircraft Consultancy Incorporation, based in Florida, USA, in an exclusive interview with Nairametrics, said that the aircraft industry in Nigeria in the 1960s and 1970s experienced greater growth than today.
He said the defunct national airline, Nigeria Airways, served virtually all parts of the world, while maintaining its fleet of C-Check aircraft in the country.
Adeniji also said that when the airline industry was deregulated in the 1980s, the country had more than 20 planes flying to various cities in the country and on the African continent, while a dollar was worth only 94,000 naira.
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Adeniji further said that most of the civil servants appointed to positions over the past 20 years have let their personal interests take precedence over the national interest, instead of developing the sector as economic development, which provides support. products for the country.
But he regretted that the sector, over the past 20 years, had seen a massive decline with the death of Nigeria Airways, a massive reduction in the number of national airlines, while the depletion of currencies continued to increase and slow progress.
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He further alleged that the government’s political upheavals and the corruption of its officials had robbed the country of the expected growth.
He said: “What killed Nigeria Airways was government interference. I remember officials used money orders to travel; the army, armed forces and government officials all used it and it took some time before the airline was reimbursed. For 40 years, Nigeria Airways worked very well, but because of corruption, which was not as big as it is today, the airline died.
“We were more developed then than now. The naira was also more encouraging. At present, corruption and inexperienced personnel affect our development. Some decisions are supposed to be made by common sense. Regulator now slows evolutions.
“The Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria was the best in Africa for training personnel; but today, its development is deteriorating. People are now buying certificates instead of taking exams. Nigerian engineers are now uncomfortable when they see engineers from outside the country.
Captain Ibrahim Mshelia, CEO of West Link Aviation, said the aviation industry has been in reverse in recent years.
Mshelia explained that the sector has grown slightly over the past 62 years due to the self-interest of those running the business.
“Our industry has always regressed. I’ve put 40 years into it now and from my 40 years of experience, the progress is abysmal. It is not assimilated in Nigeria.
“When I say we are not progressing, I mean we are not progressing because we are supposed to do better. We are capable of doing better. Nigerians in public office put their interests before the country. that’s where the problem lies.”
Mshelia further questioned the process leading to the formation of a national carrier for the country after the demise of the former, Nigeria Airways.
He lamented that 62 years after independence, the country no longer has a national carrier, while whoever is midwife for the country is shrouded in secrecy with many unanswered questions.
Also, Grp. Aviation analyst Captain John Ojikutu (Retired) said Nigeria had the capacity to do more than it had in the past 62 years.
Ojikutu specifically said that over the past seven years, the sector has stalled, despite the various master plans drawn up by the current government.
According to him, between 2015 and today, the sector had received more financial support to do much more for its programs like the national carrier, airport development, reconstruction, renovation or concessions, maintenance facilities , repair, overhaul (MRO), aerotropolis and aircraft. lease.
He regretted that the country had achieved less than 30% of the goals it had set itself over the past seven years.
Ojikutu argued that if the federal government had focused its attention on a flag carrier project or developed Arik and Aero Airlines into flag carriers as continental and intercontinental airlines in partnership with foreign technical investors and others, the industry Nigerian aeronautics would have developed and generated revenue for the country.
Further, Mr. Olumide Ohunayo, Research Director at Zenith Travels, said that the industry has grown from a single national carrier in the 1960s to many airlines by 2022, while agencies have grown from a monotonous six parastatal.
He however lamented that government agencies are still not operating as commercial entities, especially by those providing services, while interference in the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has prevented it from being an independent, impartial and uninfluenced body.
He mentioned the abrupt suspension of NG Eagle Airlines’ Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) in connection with such interference by some NCAA government officials.
The aviation expert called for the abolition of the Ministry of Aviation and the return of responsibility to the Ministry of Transport as had been the case in the past.
“To date we have politicized the industry with too many appointed politicians and they have put so much pressure on the agencies. Look at the Accident Investigation Board (AIB) for example, they keep sending staff there , even when they are not needed and it affects their finances.Ditto other agencies.
“Look how they stopped NG Eagle’s license because of the pressure. The agencies, especially the NCAA, should be independent.