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Nigeria yet reach 25% or 30% of aviation growth — Iyal

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CAPTAIN Shehu Usman Iyal, is a former Senior Special Adviser to former presidents, Olusegun Obasanjo and Jonathan Goodluck on Aviation and currently, the Managing Director of Afri-Air International Limited, a Fixed Based Operator (FBO). In this interview with some journalists at the second edition of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) National Aviation Conference (FNAC), in Abuja speaks on issues affecting the sector. SHOLA ADEKOLA brings excerpts

AS one of the core professionals in the sector, how do you think aviation can be sustain aviation in Nigeria?

The key thing about aviation today and the airlines, is survival. The authorities are suffering. If FAAN uses 40 percent of its revenue and the government takes it, how do they want them to be able to run it? So, there is a need to talk to the government. There is a need for the government to realise that aviation is more than business, aviation is a component of national security. So, there is no reason airports and airlines should have the kind of problems we are having today because aviation is a component of national security. So for whatever reason, we must find a way of helping them to survive then we can talk about sustainability. So it is in two stages but if we want to carry the two of them together, fine. We must realise that there is a need for survival.


The Murtala Muhammed Airport that was fashioned after Schiphol Airport in Netherland over 50 years ago has gone through 15 reconstructions. What do you think can be done to the Lagos Airport?

What the Managing Director said so far should be done. Now that we have new terminals, when we have space, that we can move and remodel or rebuild a 50-year-old edifice, we must do that if we want to be part of the world, and indeed we are part of the world. Aviation is global, there is no Nigerian aviation, aviation is a global family and we are part of that family.


Now that this government is coming to an end, what would you want the incoming government to concentrate on in the industry?

To give a listening ear to the people within the parastatals. FAAN has said it all, DIrector General of NCAA has said all in his speech which I think quite a number of you have captured. So let them listen to the professionals, titrate it, filter it, choose the one they can do and start doing it. For whatever reason, Nigeria is blessed, if you look at the map of the world, Nigeria is placed in a position to be a hub for West, East, Central and South Africa to go to Europe and America. So why can’t we make use of it?


The message of the FAAN MD at the stakeholders’ conference centred on sustainability and then you discover that some of the airlines are indebted to either FAAN or SAHCOL, based on what you have heard, what is the message to these airlines?

Airlines are at the mercy of so many variables. They are at the mercy of the availability of Jet A1, if it is there, at what price?They are at the mercy of even getting a boarding gate, there are so many things. In fact, if you run an airline, and you run a business, you will pity them. There is no airline in Nigeria today that can boast of making a profit in any circumstance. So, what the MD FAAN is saying is what we should take home. There is an airport in America, they even gave an airline some money to be able to come and fly there so that it can develop it. We are in a very bad situation, I don’t operate an airline but I have friends that do. In fact, I wonder how they do it. So let’s not over tax or overwhelm the airlines to get into trouble, because they are already in trouble. So the word he used, if you were here, he said what we need for the airline is more sustainability, survival. So, they should survive. Sometimes, those of us that come from Lagos-Abuja, sometimes when I see the sum of these aeroplanes, I see the load factor, I wonder if they are even able to pay parking, landing and fueling.


What can you say even in the face of all challenges you have listed? More airlines are still coming, what is your view about it? There must be something that is very attractive to them;

Yes, if you noticed what I am saying, I am not an alarmist, but I am trying to make sure we do what the MD FAAN says. It is the problem of all of us. Let’s get together as stakeholders, it is not just the problem of FAAN. Now, you are talking about more airlines, but have you noticed something about the more airlines that are coming in? They are coming in with fuel-efficient equipment, the CRJs. That by the time you have 20 or 22 passengers, you have broken even. So I know that Nigeria has not even reached 25 percent or 30 percent of aviation growth, there is still room for expansion and we shall get there. And Nigeria and Nigerian managers are very resilient and they will get out of it. It is important; let the government come to the aid of this industry. There are certain areas, if they are not giving them money directly, they should give them some release.


What can you say on State airports in the face of aviation challenges?

They are being futuristic. Let us look at it this way, Nigeria is a very rich country, you don’t have to carry passengers, you can carry cargo and you can carry so many other things. So I think we should encourage them.

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