Posted by News Express | 21 October 2016 | 2,020 times
The Senate yesterday warned of imminent plane crashes in the country if the aviation industry was not fixed immediately.
The alert followed a motion tagged “Disturbing Development in the Nigerian Aviation Industry” by Dino Melaye.
Contributing to the motion, the Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, said the fear of plane crashes was real as airlines could no longer access foreign exchange to service their aircraft.
He said some operators may resort to cutting corners as a result of their inability to access foreign exchange, thereby endangering the lives of air travellers.
Mr. Akpabio said many airlines in the country were bankrupt “and dead’’.
“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,” he said.
Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided, said that the withdrawal of airlines from Nigeria’s aviation industry was a bad omen which may lead to massive job losses.
“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,” he said.
After the debate, the senate resolved to assist the Federal Government in its planned intervention in the current challenges in aviation sector.
The Senate also urged the government to ensure that all operators who would benefit from the intervention would not increase fares arbitrarily.
The lawmakers urged the Federal Government to prevail on and insist that airlines used the Naira as the official currency in all transactions in the industry.
Meanwhile, Senate has expressed concern over the continuous exit 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.
It, therefore, supported the move by the government to promptly intervene in the crisis bedeviling the aviation sector “with a view to saving the traveling 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 would 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 equally 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.
In a related development, Thursday’s proceedings at the House of Representatives public hearing was centred on how to rescue the aviation industry from the imminent collapse.
The legislators at the lower house deliberated on the planned concession of some airports and some past agreements which have degenerated into a legal tussle.
Some stakeholders in the sector such as the Chairman of Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited, Wale Babalakin and the Deputy General Manager of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Monica Alphonse, made presentations to a committee of lawmakers over the matter.
The committee also heard from the Deputy Director of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Onyinye Ahuchogu, on the issue of foreign exchange for the aviation sector.
They consequently directed the CBN to put a special exchange rate in place for the sector.
The committee hinted that it would present the recommendations to the leadership of the House at the end of the public hearing.
•Pieced together from reports by Blueprint and Channels. Photo shows Senate in session.