Nigerian Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, says there are no immediate solutions to lingering crises shake up the country’s aviation sector.
The Minister disclosed this during an emergency meeting with the Air Operators Association of Nigeria (AON) in Abuja on Tuesday.
He said the variables impacting crises in the aviation sector are beyond the industry’s control.
“There is no immediate solution,” Sirika said.
Domestic airline operators in recent months have lamented the sudden surge in aviation fuel, threatening to halt operations.
Airlines previously had increased their base flight fare to N50,000 and above since February with many Nigerians criticizing the move.
However, the continuing shortage of aviation fuel and foreign exchange forced some airlines to cease operations.
Mr Sirika said on Tuesday that there was no short-term solution due to the challenges, adding that what is plaguing the industry is a global problem.
“The energy crisis is real and it is global. Today, there are aviation fuel problems all over the world. From America to New Zealand. It is aggravating in Nigeria because we are not producing the product,” the minister said.
He also explained that the situation was further aggravated by the continued shortage of foreign currency, as the source of income from forex had diminished.
He reiterated that the Nigerian government had in the past provided 10,000 metric tons of aviation fuel for the airlines and the government was ready to do more.
“As we speak, the government is in the process of finding a permanent solution to this problem,” he said.
According to the Minister, some of the solutions considered include “importing the product at an appropriate price, accelerating the renovation of our refineries and also waiting for the commissioning of the Dangote refinery to stimulate the supply of the product”.
“But it can’t be soon,” he added.
“So when you ask how soon, I wouldn’t know when Dangote will go live, I wouldn’t know how soon the refineries will be filled. I don’t know when imports will become sufficient. But the government is working to make all of this happen,” he said.
Sirika said he will meet with relevant stakeholders including the Central Bank of Nigeria to see how airlines can access dollars at the official market rate rather than the black market rate.
In his address, AON Chairman Abdulmunaf Sarina said that the aviation fuel crisis started from 180 Naira per liter and now it is pegged at 1,000 Naira per litre.
He said the forex crisis is also a huge burden on the industry.
“The rate at which the dollar is currently climbing is very alarming. Every day, a difference between 10 and 15 naira is added to the parallel market. Last Monday it was N610 but today it is N670 for a dollar,” he said.
He urged the minister to intervene.
Similarly, Allen Oyeama, vice president of AON, said airline operators are happy with the government’s response so far.
“We, the air operators, are pleased with the approach the government is bringing to the table. I told you, Mr. President, in order to alleviate our suffering, I approved 10,000 tons of fuel. Another 5,000 arrived. We are about to start accessing it. We are happy with the long-term approach,” he said.
“It’s not easy to give a timeline to issues like this because the challenge is global. Even American airlines are also at risk. It’s not just Nigeria. This is why we eat the government. But we are satisfied so far.
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