The chief executive officer of West Link Airlines, Capt. Ibrahim Mshelia, has said that Nigeria’s six aviation agencies are yoked with non-essential staff.
Mshelia stated this at the 51st annual general meeting/conference of the Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) held in Ibadan, Oyo State.
Delivering a paper entitled ‘How domestic airlines can sustain operations in the face of the global energy challenge,’ the airline chief said the agencies should be purged of ‘unwanted’ staff.
The parastatals are the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) and the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet).
He said the agencies are filled with support staff, who, according to him, constitute 90 per cent of the total workforce in each of them (agencies), while the technical staff are a paltry 10 per cent.
Mshelia insisted that the high number of staff in the agencies was responsible for some of the challenges faced by airlines in the sector.
He said the agencies were focusing mainly on revenue generations instead of provision of quality services to their clients.
Mshelia maintained that the current situation makes the agencies expensive to manage by the government.
He said NAMA, for instance, has over 5,000 staff nationwide, while it actually requires less than 500 staff to operate optimally.
“I want to say that some of our existing agencies are not working at optimal capacity. We have a situation where the agencies are working with more support staff of about 80 to 90 per cent and not more than 10 per cent professionals. This situation makes the agencies over-bloated and very expensive to run.
“So we need a total overhaul of the aviation industry. We should adjust the way we run the parastatals and the way we fund them for the domestic airlines to thrive,” he said.
Mshelia also alleged that the agencies burden the airlines are with multiple surcharges and called for some of the charges to be expunged from the system.
He said the 5 per cent ticket sales charge/cargo sales charge remitted to the NCAA is enough to fund all the aviation agencies, including sufficient runway maintenance and the airport environments.
Mshelia said the government could not continue to tax the airlines to grow the parastatals and appealed for a delicate, symbiotic balance between the airlines and the parastatals.
“Moving forward, the parastatals’ funding should be rejigged, while realistic models should be adopted. We are causing a lot of damage to the growth of the domestic carriers under the existing surcharge regime.
“We are blessed with a lot of studies already done. We can begin to look into the reports already handed down to us by committees set up in the past and start a dispassionate implementation of some of their recommendations.
“Government also needs to find a way of funding the industry, while every factor affecting its growth should be checked. Most of our moribund airlines went under as a result of paucity of funds. We need to know that the same environment leading to the death of those airlines persists, if not getting worse,” he added. Marinate
He further called for single-digit interest rates spanning over 25 years for domestic operators, adding that the global practice for successful national or flag carriers is 1.5 to 3 per cent interest rates and at maximum of 25 years.
He stated that in Nigeria, interest rates are between 22 and 35 per cent and wondered how the airlines could operate profitably under such a condition.
He therefore appealed to the government to make forex easy and available to aviation businesses, warning that without this, airlines and other businesses in the sector would continue to collapse.
Besides, he wanted the government to consider a 10-year tax holiday, removal of landing fees for all domestic operators and only a nominal fee of $10.00 equivalent, as flat landing fees for all commercial airline operators.