Vice President of the Airline Operators of Nigeria, AON, Allen Onyema, lamented yesterday that the reintroduction of government duties on imported spare parts for aircrafts by the Nigeria Customs Service, is killing the aviation industry.
This was even as he said that over 50 airlines have stopped operations within 30 years in the country, adding that the business has been going through turbulent times before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking during a courtesy visit by the executives of AON to the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, he disclosed that private airlines would have suspended flying indefinitely last week owing to the high cost of operations.
According to Onyema, who also is the chairman of Air Peace, the return of high duties on imported parts has made it impossible for airlines to undertake clearance of aircraft parts at sea ports and cargo sheds, a situation which poses a risk on the safety of fliers.
He, therefore, appealed to the Senate to incorporate President Buhari’s duty waiver on commercial aircrafts and spare parts into the Finance Bill presently before the National Assembly.
“Mr. President, it is not something to be proud of, that in the last thirty years of our lives as a nation, over 50 airlines have gone down. The owners of these airlines succeeded in other business, why have they failed in aviation?
“It could be traced to so many factors, including corporate governance, but most importantly policies. The policies have not been friendly to the growth of aviation.
“The President of this country, Muhammadu Buhari, in his wisdom and avowed determination to encourage indigenous businesses in this country, decided to grant zero duty to airlines for the importation of commercial aircrafts and spare parts.
“He equally granted waivers to airlines fo imitation of aircrafts or aircraft soared. In the last six years, this has helped airlines in Nigeria.
“However, just recently this year, the Customs decided to reintroduce it, even when Mr. President has not revoked his presidential order taken at the Federal Executive Council. They’ve introduced a clearing that is alien to aviation.
“Mr. President, Sir, I would like to intimate you, that this particular regime to reintroduce what Mr. President has granted us has made airlines to be groaning.
“Many of these airlines have their spare parts at the sea ports and cargo sheds not being cleared because we don’t have that money to clear them. And we can never endanger the lives of people in this country by flying aircrafts that are unsafe.
“The Finance bill is today before the Senate. We will like the intention and will of Mr. President to be incorporated in that Finance Bill, so that it will never be be at the whims and caprices of whoever takes over some certain government agencies going forward.
“All over the world, this is what is happening, Nigeria cannot be an exception.
“To be honest with you, all the airlines wanted to shut down last week indefinitely, but for the intervention of the Honourable Minister of Aviation, because we cannot continue with this.
“We are borrowing money with interest at 26 percent, now the interest rate has come down to 15 percent, which is still very high. We can’t even get forex to do our business. Everything about aviation is imported,” Onyema lamented.
Responding, the Senate President assured the airline operators that the National Assembly will ensure that the aviation sector is protected and supported.
Lawan said for private investors in the country’s aviation industry to survive, government policies must be fine-tuned in a way to ensure they thrive.
The Senate President who pledged the support of the National Assembly towards ensuring that airline operators are not squeezed out of business, said the legislature would look into policies affecting the sector while taking into consideration government’s need for revenue generation.
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