As the forex constraint continues to bite and create hardships for airlines, government has been charged to ensure that domestic carriers do not continue to suffer at the expense of their international counterparts given that it has made over $200,000 million available to foreign airlines in 2016 .
Airline operators under the aegis of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) made this known at the weekend while stating categorically that Nigerian airlines who have created jobs and have continued to invest in the nation’s economy have been at a disadvantage since the all the signed air services agreements have been skewed.
Chairman of the AON, Captain Nogie Meggison, who explained the position of the domestic airlines said that with the way things are going that domestic airlines were on a dire strait thus calling on the government to choose between leisure travel and business travel or capital flight or job creation.
He said government needed to urgently address the failure to make forex available to domestic airlines in the interest of safety and avoidance of collapse to the air transport system.
Meggison who decried government’s preferential treatment to foreign carriers operating in the country making over $200million available to them in 2016 to the detriment of Nigerian domestic carriers whose safe operations also largely depend on equally having access to forex.
Meggison further stated that foreign airlines repatriate an estimated $2.2bn yearly out of the Nigerian economy leading to a colossal amount of capital outflow as against domestic carriers that retain funds in the economy and provide jobs to Nigerians locally, adding that despite this domestic airlines are yet to receive up to $10 million in comparison.
“It is no longer news that airlines in Nigeria charge very competitive fares in local currency but have to carry out numerous operational activities including maintenance and purchase of spare parts in foreign currency (Dollars) thereby adding to the already unbearable burden the airlines have to carry on a regular basis.”
“And the current forex constraint being faced by airlines has further exacerbated the situation and threatening to cripple airline operations in the country.”
“In the light of the above therefore, AON seriously decries a situation whereby foreign carriers operating in the country are given preference by government making over $200,000 million available to them in 2016 to the detriment of Nigerian domestic carriers whose safe operations also largely depend on equally having access to forex. “
“Foreign airlines repatriate an estimated $2.2bn yearly out of the Nigerian economy leading to a colossal amount of capital flight as against domestic carriers that retain funds in the economy and provide jobs to Nigerians locally. Despite this domestic airlines are yet to receive up to $10 million in comparison.”
In his statement, Captain Meggison, further said aviation is a spearhead of the national economy that not only facilitates the movement of people and goods than any other mode of transportation but also ensures the ease of doing business by making it possible to transact different businesses in several locations in a single day.
His words, “Aviation is an international business and irrespective of the environment an airline operates in we are all faced with the same challenges; but more so for Nigerian operators who have to also deal with many infrastructure challenges and inefficiencies in the system.”
The operators therefore called on government to be proactive and extend the same level of support to Nigerian carriers by making significant amounts of forex available to them as extended to their foreign counterparts in an effort to forestall total collapse of the system and promote safety.