By Lawani Mikairu
Former Secretary General of African Airlines Association, Mr Nick Fadugba has pleaded with Nigeria airline operators to form partnership and work together in operations, training of personnel , maintenance of fleet, in order to be able to compete globally. He also said the fleet size of Nigerian local operators and resources at their disposal is not enough to make them global players individually.
According to Fadugba, “ some Nigerian airline operators are quite poor financially, so we need to do better. You know the international aviation industry has changed dramatically since the days of Nigerian airways. Today, no airline can succeed working alone. And therefore I want to once again appeal to airlines in Nigeria to come together, to work together in operations, training, maintenance. We need to partner. Even if we don’t merge we need to partner with one another. The average maximum fleet size in Nigeria is about 10 aircraft and yet we are competing with British Airways that has over 400 aircraft”.
“Delta airlines have over 500 aircraft. Even Ethiopian airlines has a 110 aircraft. So how can small airlines compete? And I am not being disrespectful . If you don’t have a critical mass in terms of size, in term of good management, in terms of fleet, in terms of good network, it is very hard to succeed. So we have the market in Nigeria, we are very fortunate but the fact is that our airlines are at the moment not of the size that can compete effectively against the big airlines coming into Nigeria”.
“I also want to appeal to the federal government of Nigeria, over the past 15 to 20 years since the demise of Nigerian airways, I regret the liquidation of Nigerian airways. Kenya Airways was turned around and it was in a worse position than Nigerian airways at the time, so we could have saved it but we didn’t. However, since Nigerian airways was liquidated there was no airline to reciprocate on Bilateral Air Service Agreements, BASA, so foreign airlines gained a huge advantage over Nigerian airlines. But now we need to sit down, we need review the situation”.
“Don’t forget an air route to Nigeria is like an oil block, it has economic value, we cannot just be giving them away free of charge. These days people don’t like to pay for BASAs but the fact is until we have a stronger airline industry in Nigeria, we need to review the setup because all airlines in Nigeria including Air Peace are complaining that the system today is unfair, it is not in our interest. I also want to appeal to the government to support private airlines like Air peace and many others, of course we want a national carrier but this should not be done to the disadvantage of private carriers like Air peace”.
He also said “Air Peace has launched long haul services to Dubai but they need support from government and from the flying public in Nigeria. I don’t see why Emirates coming into Nigeria from Dubai why they can’t partner with Air peace. if Air peace can partner with Emirates to Dubai it is a win-win. So Emirates shouldn’t have the lion share of the business and it is the government that can influence that”.
On why he has consistently advised Nigeria airline operators, Fadugba said , “First of all I am very passionate about aviation in Nigeria. I believe we are not where we should be today, given our resources. There is no market in Africa that is comparable to Nigeria. Whether you are a market lady or a board chairman, we travel, we are a nation of traders. Many foreign airlines are coming into Nigeria making good profit and yet most Nigerian airlines to the best of my knowledge are not making a lot of money”.
The former AFRAA Secretary General also emphasized that aviation in Nigeria, if properly harnessed, could become one of the keys to Nigeria’s future prosperity and that the government must have the political will to drive this prosperity through workable and sustainable policies and support of indigenous Airlines.
He said, “though a lot had been achieved, many challenges still remained; Aviation safety, security, training, regulatory oversight and infrastructure, liberalisation, modernisation, funding, efficiency, affordability and profitability all needed to be improved significantly. All these need improved government policies”.
Fadugba further said a situation in which over 90% of international air traffic to and from Nigeria was carried by non-Nigerian airlines was damaging to the economy in several ways, such as the huge capital flight from Nigeria, the continued deterioration of the Nigerian aviation industry and the loss of skilled aviation employment opportunities.