The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), yesterday, reiterated that cargo operations hold the lifeline for the survival of local airlines amid the crippling coronavirus crisis.
The Director-General of the apex regulatory body, Captain Musa Nuhu, said the current situation was dire, yet presents an excellent opportunity for cargo operations and other services for local operators to explore to their advantage.
The Federal Government, in March, restricted both local and international flight operations as part of measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The lockdown, which persists to date, however, exempts cargo and emergency flights operations.
Nuhu, who spoke at a webinar forum on aviation, organised by SY&T Communications and AELEX Partners, said since it would take time for passenger traffic to get back to the pre-COVID-19 level upon resumption, “the excess capacity of what the airlines have should rather be deployed to both domestic and international cargo services.”
He said: “It is a very difficult time for global aviation, not only for us in Nigeria. As we speak, tens of thousands of aircraft have been parked, tens of thousands of employees are at home, and some have been laid off. I think we should not be focused on the difficulty that we are going through now; we should rather see it as an opportunity to reinvent the industry both domestically and internationally.”
Nuhu said he understood the difficulties in getting permits and approvals to fly into some countries, but urged the operators that are ready to take the step, to involve the NCAA and the Ministry of Aviation in their negotiations, for seamless operations.
He added that NCAA had embarked on the review of the industry’s regulations to reflect the current realities, and chart path to a better industry.
“Presently, we have the Civil Aviation Act and other aviation laws waiting to be passed. Once they are passed, they will give us new opportunities. The truth is that the industry has changed. Let’s not think short term; one year or two years. Let’s think long term and what we need to do to ensure the survival of the industry over the long term, considering what has happened. It is a long term change and I strongly believe that the Civil Aviation Authority has a significant role to play in assisting or providing the guidelines to the industry to adjust to this long term change.”
In agreement with the NCAA DG, Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd), said there are over 100 million metric tonnes of cargoes on interstates roads from Lagos to the north and east, “domestic airlines should only target 10 per cent of this yearly to make a huge earning.”