Annual passenger traffic growth in Nigeria notwithstanding, domestic arm of the aviation sector has consistently lagged behind attracting a paltry eight per cent of the weekly total passengers’ seats.
President of Aviation Round Table (ART), Gbenga Olowo, made this disclosure recently in Lagos as he called for an urgent holistic intervention to save domestic operations from collapse.
Olowo, who spoke when ART members received Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed and his counterpart in Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said it was regrettable that the sector has not made progress in the last 40 years, with the airlines currently in dire straits.
He noted that in 2000, there were 12,000 weekly seats offered by the airlines. The seats rose to 30,500 in 2010 (300 per cent growth) and climbed to 48,000 weekly seats in 2015 (another 180 per cent growth).
The ART President said it was, however, regrettable that out of these figures, participation by the Nigerian sector is less than 10 per cent; eight per cent actually.“And the Nigerian sector that provided this eight per cent is now lying in state; basically, Arik Air and the others. Meaning that, this regrettable eight per cent by our airlines may even become zero if care is not taken.”
He said while it is clear that the sector is not advancing, Nigerians must decide the way forward for its airlines among others.“If our airlines were to rise up and let’s say we have two or three strong airlines, the size of South African Airways; that is 50 airplanes each, where is the airport for them to go and operate? Is the airport growing? Is the facility of our airspace able to accommodate them?
“Because if airlines grow and airport and airspace do not grow, how are we going to reciprocate all these seats that are available to the foreign airlines? Yet the foreign airlines kept growing. If you look at the data of Ethiopian Airline, South African and Kenyan Airways put together, they are one-third of the size of Emirates in revenue figures.
“So, when are we doing to have a Nigerian player that will stand up to Emirate? But we need one because if the Nigerian naira must improve, it is aviation sector that will make it improve,” Olowo said.
Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, commended the ART for been a dominant and relentless voice in the quest to revamp the sector, with improved safety and security.
He said the sector remains critical and very dear to the current administration, which is ready to spare nothing to see it back on its feet.
Sirika pledged to work with the think-tank group to upturn the fortunes of aviation sector, tackling the issues one after the other.Secretary General of the ART, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd) said it was unprecedented having the two ministers coming to parley with ART for the growth of the sector.
Ojikutu said it was the first time that any minister of aviation would identify with the nongovernmental organisation whose main objectives are promotion of safety, security and viability of air transport.
“We saw and heard for the first time a minister who took passionately to the inadequacies of safety in the industry and has personally been involved with the renovation of the Abuja airport runway while also committing to the management of flights and passengers being diverted to Kaduna,” he said.