There are no immediate solutions to the current crisis rocking Nigeria’s aviation sector as the cause of the major challenge in the industry is a global issue, the Federal Government declared on Tuesday.
Although the government stated that it was making efforts to address the challenges, it stressed that it could not tell when the solutions to the crisis would materialise.
Domestic airlines in Nigeria have been faced with a stiff challenge posed by the hike in the price of aviation fuel, popularly called Jet A1.
The cost of the commodity has jumped from less than N300/litre to over N800/litre within about five months.
This has also warranted an increase in airfares by airlines that could manage to get the commodity, while others that could not survive the situation, such as Aero Contractors, have temporarily suspended operations.
However, the airlines operating currently, have continued to delay or cancel flights due to difficultly in accessing Jet A1, a development that has caused untold hardship to travellers.
Reacting to the crisis in the sector at a meeting with officials of the Airline Operators of Nigeria in Abuja on Tuesday, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, stated that the government was aware of the challenges, but noted that there was no immediate solution to the concerns currently.
He said, “Energy crises is real and it is global. Today there is aviation fuel problem all over the world. From America to New Zealand. It is aggravating in Nigeria because we don’t produce the product.
“It is aggravated also because the foreign exchange is scarce in Nigeria and the source of earning the foreign exchange has also has dwindled”.
He said the Federal Government had in the past sourced 10,000 metric tonnes of aviation fuel for domestic airlines, adding that the government was wiling to do more.
“As we speak, the government is in the process of finding a permanent solution to this issue,” Sirika stated.
Outlining some of the the solutions, the minister said it would include, “importation of the product at the appropriate price, accelerating the refurbishment of our refineries and also wait for the coming on stream of Dangote Refinery to boost supply of the product.”
He, however, noted that this would not happen soon.
“So when you ask how soon, I wouldn’t know when Dangote will come on stream, I wouldn’t know how soon the refineries will be fixed. I wouldn’t know when imports would become sufficient. But the government is working towards all these to happen,” Sirika stated.
The minister said he would meet with relevant stakeholders including the Central Bank of Nigeria so that the airlines could access forex at the official rate rather than the black market price.
The President, AON, Abdulmunaf Sarina, said the aviation fuel crises began from N180/litre, but had now jumped to N1000/litre, adding that accessing forex crises was a huge burden on the Industry.
“The rate at which the dollar is escalating now is very alarming. Everyday, a difference between of N10 to N15 Naira is added at the parallel market. Last week Monday, it was N610 but today it is N670 to one dollar,” he said.
On his part, the Vice President, AON, Allen Onyema, said the airlines were satisfied with the government intervention in the industry, but admitted the solution to the crisis was not in the short term.