Airlines operating in Nigeria may shut down operations in coming weeks over the frustration they face in the hands of the Nigeria Customs Service and the crash of the naira against the dollar, the Chairman, Air Peace, Allen Onyema, said on Thursday.
Air Peace is Nigeria’s largest commercial carrier involved in domestic and international operations.
Onyema, who spoke in Abuja while receiving the second Embraer 195-E2 aircraft of Air Peace, also revealed that about 20 airplanes of the airline that were flown abroad for maintenance had remained trapped in various countries due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
He further observed that but for the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, the airlines would have shut down their various operations in Nigeria last week.
On why the carriers were contemplating a nationwide shutdown, he said this was because the NCS was not complying fully with Federal Government’s law on waiver for airlines.
Onyema said, “The Customs know very well that this issue of waiver has been signed into law. Yet, I have an aircraft lying down there for over one month.
“An aircraft where you paid over $1m on insurance whether you fly or not, paid over N490m on, with a staff strength of over 3,000 people.
“Your spare parts and engine will come into the country and the Customs will keep on holding them and will continue giving you all manner of excuses and bills to pay.”
He stressed that this was despite the fact that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had signed into law the waivers.
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Onyema said, “This is the law of the country. The Customs should be made to obey the laws of this country or in the coming weeks, airlines might shut down. If not for the Minister of Aviation last week, all the airlines in Nigeria would have shut down.”
On the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on aircraft maintenance, he said, “About 20 of our aircraft that were sent for maintenance are still in different parts of the world because they (countries) are experiencing various levels of lockdown.
“This has limited our capacity to satisfy passengers. We are not alone in this. I am sure other airlines may be experiencing the same thing.”
Commenting on the just received Embraer 195-E2 new aircraft, Onyema said it was the latest invention in commercial aviation.
He said, “This aircraft is the newest innovation in commercial aviation and a Nigerian airline made firm order of 13 of these brand new Embraer 195-E2 aircraft.”
The Air Peace boss said the airplanes would be deployed on the domestic and regional routes, adding that when the 13 aircraft would be fully delivered, they would create about 8,000 jobs.
Onyema stated that because of the efficiency and cost management of the aircraft, their deployment would lead to a reduction in airfares in the nearest future.
He also stated that Air Peace had not and would not cancel its order for 10 Boeing 737 Max8 airplanes despite the unfortunate incidents recorded in the operations of the aircraft about two years ago.