The minister of state for aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika says the federal government is not unaware of the operational challenges including aviation fuel, foreign exchange and infrastructural deficiencies at airports facing both the domestic and foreign airlines.
Speaking in his office in Abuja while granting audience to the West African regional manager for Emirates, Manoj Gopi Nair, Sirika said the federal government had been up and doing to create an environment that is both enabling and profitable for them to operate.
He therefore used the opportunity to appeal to Emirates and the other foreign airlines operating in Nigeria and are in the process of downgrading or suspending their operations to reconsider their stand as the challenges currently besetting the industry and other sectors were being addressed.
Sirika recalled the recent concession given to airlines by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to enable them (airlines) procure foreign exchange to clear the backlog of matured foreign exchange obligations.
He described the CBN intervention as a direct fall-out of efforts of the ministry to minimize the identified challenges.
He also promised to immediately take up the Emirates complaints about Foreign Exchange with the relevant authorities.
On the issue of aviation fuel which had earlier threatened to cripple the industry in the recent past, Sirika said the situation had almost normalized due to government intervention that has made it easier for importers to bring in the product.
On infrastructural deficiencies, especially the runway at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, the minister said while the government was already handling the issue, the long-term solution would be the concession of the major airports. Sirika who said the process of concession had already begun added that concession would address the problems of infrastructure at the airports.
Earlier, Nair had told the minster about the Emirates management’s decision to scale down its operations in Nigeria, starting with the suspension of operations from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
He said the decision was based on the airline’s inability to make ends meet in view of the difficulties in accessing foreign exchange for its operations.
The regional manager also listed the high cost of aviation fuel and the state of the Abuja Airport runway as other impeding factors.