By Kenneth Ehigiator
The federal Government may come up with intervention package for airline operators in the country, as President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua holds a meeting with the operators tomorrow at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, to look into their complaints about how the harsh investment climate in the country is threatening to get them out of business.
The meeting is said to be compelled by the letters written to the President by Aero Contractors, Chanchangi Airlines, Virgin Nigeria Airways (Nigerian Eagle Airlines) and others about the multiple and arbitrary charges levied against them by aviation parastatals as well as the high cost of aviation fuel, also known as JET-A1.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Aviation, Captain Shehu Usman Iyal, told Vanguard, on the telephone yesterday, that the President is worried by the present situation of airlines in the country, especially considering recent closing of shop by Bellview Airlines and Virgin Nigeriaâ€™s predicament.
He said since the issue at stake is an economic matter, the Economic Adviser to the President would play a prominent role at the meeting, but could not disclose in what form government would bail out the airlines.
According to him, Aviation Minister, Mr. Babatunde Omotoba, aviation parastatals chiefs as well as the chairmen, managing directors and accountants of airlines in the country, were expected to be represented at the meeting.
Capt. Iyal, who is also expected to be at the meeting, said governmentâ€™s intervention for the airlines would be based on the outcome of the meeting.
Airlines, under the aegis of Airline Operators (AON), have canvassed for government bail out package as a way out of the present economic meltdown, saying they might be forced to close shop should government fail to heed to their cry.
Although Omotoba had, in his response to the airlinesâ€™ plea, persistently ruled out any bail out package, he had, however, said government was keen in intervening in other areas he refused to unveil.
Airlines in the country have repeatedly complained about the skyrocketing prices of aviation fuel, which currently hovers between N120 and N135 per litre, depending on which part of the country it is sourced.
They have also complained about high en route charges levied by the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), arbitrary landing and packing charges as well as ground rent by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited, operators of MMA2.