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Keyamo And The Challenge of Aviation Sector Reforms




By Femi Ogunshola

``Dear passengers this announcement is for passengers on flight XX 232 to Lagos, The flight has been delayed due to weather conditions’’, says a barely audible announcer in the public address system at the departure lounge of Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja.

This is the third time the flight would be postponed this evening.

In the previous announcements, nobody bothered to inform the passengers the reasons for the postponements.

`Oh My God!` `What a Rubbish!` It’s a lie!`, `This can’t be true!` murmured passengers as it looked most unlikely that the ‘scheduled’ flight will hold.

The last flight for the night was already boarding.

The scenario is replicated on daily basis at airports across the country.

Part 19.6 of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig. CAR) 2015 as amended, says that for domestic flights, when an operating air carrier reasonably expects a flight to be delayed beyond its scheduled time of departure, it shall provide the passengers with reason(s) for the delay.

This would be within 30 minutes after the scheduled departure time and the assistance specified after two hours, refreshments as specified in section 19.10.1.

Section 19.10.1 of the regulation states that where reference to care is made in this section, passengers shall be offered free of charge: refreshments such as water, soft drinks, confectioneries/snacks and a meal.

According to the law, one can claim from 25 per cent of the ticket price as compensation based on the length of your flight delay, and the circumstances around the delay.

At the airports, these provisions are routinely ignored by the airlines as food is never served while refunds are rare.

Successive administrations in the Ministry of Aviation have promised to make the sector match international standards. They have not walked the talk.

But there is a new pilot in the cabin, Festus Keyamo, a senior lawyer and former Minister of State for Labour, a portfolio is was assigned to after a spell as Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs.

How ready is he to carry out far-reaching reforms to reposition the sector?

Mr Emmanuel Bamiyo, a journalist, bought a N115, 000 ticket of one of the domestic airlines from Abuja to Kano in February. The flight was cancelled. All his efforts to get a refund has proofed unsuccessful.

According to him, the airline promised that within one month his money would be refunded but several months later he has not been got the money.

Another dimension to the challenge faced on local routes is lack of or meagre refreshment served on board; while seats are squeezed close making leg room very difficult. In some cases, and strangely too, there is unbearable heat on board.

Mr Daniel Regha described his experience as `bittersweet`, saying the seats on his flight did not have enough space between them, with barely functional air conditioning system.

To make matters worse, refreshment was paltry as one bottle of table water was given out to two passengers.

Mr Tunde Nineth said he would rather drive his car to any part of Nigeria than fly domestically.

Nineth alleged that many domestic airlines as routine lacked maintenance while their operators exhibit nonchalant attitude towards passengers.

Sharing her experience, Mrs Oghenkaro Akubuike a civil, said she took a flight from Abuja to Lagos with her son and described their experience as harrowing.

According to her, she got to the airport in good time, checked in, and got to the departure lounge well ahead of time.

She said she waited eagerly for boarding to be announced in the hot departure lounge.

According to her, the flight was scheduled to take off at 7:05 pm but her fear was confirmed when it was announced that it would be delayed for 30 minutes.

“My son started asking me a lot of questionsthat I could not answer. He started the 30-minute countdown, checking the time at regular intervals.

“At 7:45pm the airline invited the passengers for a briefing. Immediately we knew something unpleasant was in the offing.

“We were informed by an airline staff that our flight would be delayed for another one hour 45 minutes.

“The plane was already in Abuja but couldn’t land due to bad weather so it had to go to Lagos and it will refuel before coming back to Abuja to take you to Lagos.

“For all the trouble, the airline offered each passenger one bottle of water,’’ she told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

The flight eventually took off at 11:20 pm.

Aviation sector operators, while acknowledging the challenges they face, say said some of the problems are beyond them. Among the most prominent challenges are operational costs, debts and poor access to foreign exchange. The Nigeria debacle is still fresh in the minds of aviation stakeholders.

Mr Peter Dia said the rising cost of Jet A fuel is triggered by the high exchange rate of the dollars and importation charges were impacting negatively on the operations of airlines.

Dia spoke as a representative of the Oil Marketers Association, at a National Aviation conference organised in Abuja by Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria.

“Unfortunately we are not producing Jet A fuel in Nigeria. We import all the Jet fuel we are selling in this country and then we continue to battle with taxes and charges from different agencies when the jet fuel arrives in Nigeria,” he said.

“Airline operation in Nigeria is beset with many challenges which include weather, airport infrastructure, VIP movement and bird strike.

“Airlines in Nigeria have been blamed for posting poor performances, delays, cancellations.

“Recently, the NCAA came out with their assessment of the situation without telling the world what caused those cancellations and what caused those delay.

“Air Peace alone, this year, has recorded about 18 bird strikes and that means a lot to the operations of an airline’’, said chairman and CEO, Air Peace, Allen Onyema, at Brunch Business Meeting of the Aviation Safety Roundtable Initiative (ASRTI).

As the newly appointed ministers settle down for business, various sectors of the economy such as aviation face different challenges. Teething as these challenges maybe, they are not insurmountable.

Although the era when aircraft dropped from the nation’s airspace seems to be over, more reforms are needed to strengthen the sector to make it one of the best in Africa.

The operational environment seems to be hostile for airlines in Nigeria resulting in many of them closing shops at rapid intervals. It is important that the root causes of these problems are unravelled and fixed by Keyamo administration.

Will  the human rights activist-turned politician has hit the sky. Will he deliver where others have failed or cruise on the altitude of an average show like his predecessors? Nigerians are keenly waiting for his landing. (NANFeatures)


Passengers Stranded as NLC Locks Down Abuja Airport




By Idris Umar Feta Abuja

Many air travellers were left stranded following the closure of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, by officials of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Thursday.

A combined team of NLC and Trade Union Congress (TUC) blocked both the entry and exit ways of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport.

The protest was part of the series of actions that the two labour unions say they would zero in on Imo, following the attack on the NLC president, Joe Ajaero.

The NLC and TUC had on Tuesday, declared a nationwide strike, which will commence on Tuesday, November 14, due to the face-off with the Imo State Government.

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Soludo Names Airport After  Achebe




Anambra State Governor, Professor Charles Soludo has renamed the state’s International Passenger and Cargo Airport after the late Chinua Achebe, a novelist, to immortalise him for making an indelible mark on the history of human civilisation.

Achebe a native of Ogidi in Idemili North Local Government Area of the state, died on March 21, 2013, at age 82, in Boston, Massachusetts.

Soludo said this on Sunday in Awka at the Independence Day parade, to mark Nigeria’s 63rd anniversary, describing Achebe as an example of Africa’s unsung hero.

“Achebe, a Nigerian novelist, poet, and critic, gave the African literature an identity and a voice and he rightly reconstructed and refined the identify of the people,” he said.

The governor said that Achebe was not just an Anambra hero nor a Nigerian hero, but an African and global hero and yet largely unsung at home.

He said that henceforth, the state shall be deliberate in fishing out and celebrating its largely unsung heroes as motivation to children and youths.

“Unfortunately, some people wrongly think of legacies in terms of brick and mortar. Legacy is about impact on human life and human civilisation.

“Achebe was not a president or governor or military. He did not build bridges or roads or airports but he will outlive most presidents, governors and ministers in our minds.

“Achebe rejected Nigeria’s national honours twice in protest against what he perceived as injustice to his home state Anambra. Today, Anambra will finally honour him.

“After wide consultations, there is a broad consensus that no one is more deserving to be named after the first airport in Anambra than Anambra’s all-time greatest literary gift to the world, Chinua Achebe.

“Consequently, we will rename the Anambra International Cargo and Passenger Airport, Umueri, to Chinua Achebe International Airport, Umueri.

“Yes, it has to be an international airport, and we hope to work with the Federal Government to give full effect to its international status,” he said.

Soludo urged Nigerians to be intentional about making the project Nigeria work and believe in the potential greatness of the country.

“We have muddled through the past 63 years with squandered opportunities and yet with the promise of potential greatness

“No country or nation is a perfect. Every nation continues to struggle in its match to a more perfect union. The path to stability, growth and sustainability will be challenging as there are no quick fixes.

“But all of us must collectively think and work Nigeria out of the current challenges. We have no other country but Nigeria, and we must make it to work for everyone, “he said.

The governor said his administration was founded on the true progressive agenda and would continue to create the enabling environment for residents to thrive and survive.

The police, paramilitary organisations and students from different schools took part in the parade. (NAN)

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Abiodun flags off Aviation Village construction




Abiodun flags off Aviation Village construction

Gov. Dapo Abiodun of Ogun on Tuesday flagged off the construction of 200 units of two-bedroom expanded bungalows, at the Gateway Aviation Village, Iperu in Ikenne Local Government Area of the state.

The governor, represented by his Special Adviser on Housing, Jagunmolu Omoniyi, said the project would herald the creation of a new city in the town and serve the entire Remo cluster and the state in general.

He said the project was divided into two phases, with the first 100 units to be ready in six months.

According to the governor, the siting of the housing scheme would serve institutions and people who will make use of the Gateway Agro-Cargo Airport.

Abiodun noted that government agencies like the Customs, the Nigerian Air Force and other corporate bodies had already indicated interest in the airport.

He said that the project would create jobs for about 5,000 artisans of various skills in the course of execution.

“This is the people’s project. This housing scheme will complement the airport and serve those who will work in this town.

“I can assure you that within two years, the story of this town will change. We will not engage outsiders to work in this estate, but the people of this town.

“We have done similar projects at Kemta, Idi-Aba and Kobape. The siting of similar housing estate has changed the landscape of Kobape, which was a village before, to a lively city,” he said.

The governor called on prospective buyers to start the process by obtaining their forms, charging the people to support and take ownership of the project for the development of the town.

In his remarks, the Chairman of Ikenne Local Government Area, Mr Segun Ogunleye, expressed gratitude to the governor, saying with the siting of the housing estate and the cargo airport, the development of the town was assured.(NAN)

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