SENATE yesaterday warned that the spectre of plane crashes might return if urgent steps were not taken by the relevant government agencies to fix the ailing aviation industry. Adopting a motion sponsored by Senator Dino Melaye on the “Disturbing Development in the Nigerian Aviation Industry” the Senate urged the Federal Government to prevail and insist that airlines use the Naira as the official currency in all transactions in the aviation industry. The Senate after a brief debate on the motion expressed willingness to support Federal Government’s move to intervene in the current challenges with a view to saving the travelling masses from greater hardship and reduce the ongoing suffering in the aviation sector. It also urged the government to ensure that it extracts from airlines who are going to be benefiting from the government special reviews, commitments not to increase fares arbitrarily and guarantee competitive ticket pricing within the regional market indicators. Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio who raised the alarm of imminent crashes, while making his contributions, said
airlines operating in the country can no longer access foreign exchange used in servicing their aircrafts. He warned that some operators may start cutting corners as a result of their inability to access foreign exchange, thereby endangering the lives of air travellers. Akpabio added that many of the airlines in the country are bankrupt and dead. He further noted that others have either withdrawn or relocated to neighbouring countries. “These problems are caused by policies of government. Monetary policies of government have not allowed the airlines to operate. “Section 14(2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended says that government must ensure the security and welfare of the people. We are likely to have a spectre of crashes because most airlines cannot access foreign exchange to service their aircrafts,” Akpabio noted. Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu in his submission, said the withdrawal of airlines from Nigeria’s aviation industry is a bad omen which will in turn lead to massive job losses. Ekweremadu said: “A situation whereby airlines cannot send back their money to their home countries is a disaster. Competition becomes less and the few left
will charge as they want. It is embarrassing that airlines have to go and refuel in Ghana.” …urges FG’s intervention in exodus of foreign airlines Also, Senate lamented the continuous exodus of some foreign airlines from Nigeria and suspension of operations by others, warning that the trend if not checked, will further compound the plights of troubled Nigerians. The upper legislative chamber therefore called for the quick intervention of the federal government in the crisis bedevilling the aviation sector “with a view to saving the travelling masses from greater hardship and reduce the ongoing suffering occasioned by these challenges.” It also urged the federal government to ensure that it secures commitments from the airlines billed to benefit from government’s special intervention that they will not indiscriminately increase air fares and simultaneously ensure that ticket pricing remains competitive “within the regional market indicators.” The Senate also advised the government to scrutinise the currency management systems and consequently save the country “from further divestments and business failures in order to save Nigerian workers and their families the implication of Nigerian businesses going offshore.” It also frowned at the regulation of the sector by Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, in foreign currency as it charged the agency to henceforth denominate all local charges in local currency in accordance with the laws of the land. The resolutions were the aftermath of a motion moved by Senator Dino Melaye (APC Kogi West) in which he lamented what he described as emerging challenges in the aviation sector as a result of the current economic recession. Melaye said the development had resulted in foreign airlines such as United Air Emirates and Kenyan Airlines either suspending or withdrawing their operations from the country. According to him, the crisis had the tendency to make life more difficult for ordinary Nigerians whom he said had been grappling with the adverse effects of the current economic recession as he blamed the suspension or withdrawal of operations by the airlines on their inability to obtain forex to fund their operations. Melaye said the implications of this development were grave on the economy especially, in terms of its impact on job creation policy, investment drive and economic recovery plans. He, however, expressed hope that the current steps being taken by the government to address the problem through its policy directives such as concession and special arrangements would save the sector from collapse. He insisted that the government was duty bound to make the welfare of citizens its main priority through “sustainable programme of intervention and policy direction that will put the industry back on the course of growth.” Supporting the motion, Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, blamed the situation on government’s poor monetary policy, arguing that any policy that is not predicated on security and welfare of the people is a failure. He warned against handling the matter with non-challant attitude, observing that if the matter is not promptly nipped in the bud, it will result in airlines’ inability to maintain their aircraft and consequently resulting in air crashes. Besides air crashes, he said the trend would result in mass loss of jobs as he recalled how organisations such as Julius Berger and Exxon Mobil had laid off over 10,000 employees. In his remark, Senate President Bukola Saraki emphasised the need for the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to avert the suffering of the masses by putting machinery in place to forestall further suspension of airlines’ operations.

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