By Ayoola Olaitan
One of the biggest challenges facing Nigerian aviation industry is the absence of Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) centre. Nigeria with population of 18 million passengers movement, which is the largest in any airport in Africa. There have been considerable economic pressures, with aircraft maintenance costs because of the absence of MRO that can serve the country’s aeronautical needs effectively.
MRO in aviation involves the repair, service, or inspection of an aircraft or aircraft components. It is essentially all of the maintenance activities that take place to ensure safety and airworthiness of aircrafts by international standards.
Aircraft maintenance is imperative to keeping up product availability, reliability, and quality. Consequently, airline operators depend on MRO to ensure safety and compliance with airworthiness directives.
With the growth in air passenger traffic recorded in Nigeria in the last 5 years, it is expected to drive the demand for new aircrafts. The opening of an MRO facility in Nigeria, hence, will be expected to act as the needed opportunity for the industry to key into, so as to generate more revenue for the industry by making different airlines both within and outside Africa come for their aircrafts mantenance.
Also, the establishment of MRO facility in the country would help airlines save billions of naira spent overseas on aircraft maintenance yearly even as the exchange rate is not in favour of airline operators during this period when the industry has been hit with great losses due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
A single complete MRO facility in Nigeria is expected to lead to an increase in aircraft traffic in the nation, in addition to reduction in airfares, oil prices and lifting of the foreign exchange ban on the aviation industry.
MRO is a mandatory maintenance programme for aircrafts, which ranges from minor to complex checks per session on an aircraft, is said to cost over $1 million, a huge spending by already struggling local airlines. This, coupled with other financial burdens that drain the lean purse of local operators by lowering their capacity, revenue, and chances of survival.
West Africa, however, lacks the availability of a full-fledged MRO facility. Thus, the opening of MRO facility in Nigeria is expected to act as a business hub for the country. The MRO facility to be constructed in Nigeria will be designed to receive aircrafts from foreign airliners for MRO and other African countries. The MRO facility in the country will be a great opportunity for the industry to take advantage of the market and build a vast customer base to serve the industry in the West Africa region.
Recall that MMS Plus reported the need for aviation industry to look into exploring opportunities in the sector, as air freight business is also an opportunity for the industry to look in that direction. Looking beyond the cargo opportunity the industry could look into having a full fledged MRO centre with modern equipment that meets international standards.
Several African airlines have opted for MRO as other means of lowering operation costs and also for revenue generation for the industry. Ethiopian Airlines, South African Airways and Kenya Airways have in the past entered into arrangements with global aviation to provide the much needed MRO service on the continent.
However, stakeholders and aviation experts have called for quick look into the facility in Uyo the South-South region of the country to be equipped and put to work to be able to serve the country and other countries across the West Africa region.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, had received from the ICRC the outline business case certificate for a proposed MRO facility by Nigeria’s government. He opined that the MRO, when established would serve as a maintenance facility for both Nigerian airlines and other airlines in west Africa.
According to him, “the roadmap of the administration is intertwined with each other, there must be an airline to service the MRO same as the MRO too needs the airline to survive”
Speaking on the Uyo MRO shed the Minister opined that the government would support the Akwa Ibom government in achieving a successful MRO facilities.
“The Uyo MRO already have the shed but no equipment or floor, the government will support Uyo to develop the MRO. We must get it right that the MRO can’t be just one in the country. For instance in England there are several MRO, also it will be a specialty base”
Sirika posited that with government study the government have been able to identify the exact type of engines within the continet of Africa. In Africa there is only one MRO in Ethiopia serving Ethiopian Airline, one in Egypt serving Egypt airline, Morocco also have one serving Morocco airline and air France and one in South Africa.
According to the minister, “if Nigeria has about three to five MROs, the nation will definitely have the marke. So, the one in Uyo will continue and partner with who they want to partner with because all these are private sector and we are going to advance with the selected candidates who applied and select the winner soon and we will have an MRO in Abuja”.
Also, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Top Brass Aviation Limited, Roland Iyayi, posits that there is need to specialize on a particular type of aircraft before the MROs are set up.
Noting that there is a need for market analysis to know the type of aircraft popular in this type of market, the aviation veteran admonished the nation to thread cautiously.
According to Roland “on setting up an MRO, an MRO is not like a car garage that you set up and any kind of car will come in there, there is a need to specialize on a particular type of aircraft so before an MRO is set up, there is need for market analysis well”
“Looking at the African market what type of aircraft is popular in this market that If set up there will be good patronage and this must be structured out to work with the local market, so that the objective of addressing capital flights can be addressed”
“Indeed Uyo is a very good facility but it does not have the equipment and necessary tools to service any particular type of aircraft. So for Uyo to be made useful facility, it must be equipped to service particular type of aircraft”.
Experts posit that the Uyo MRO project would be more viable than the federal government proposed one in Abuja, arguing that Uyo was more of a commercial location than the nation’s capital.
The President of League of Maritime Editors and Publishers (LOMEP) Mr. Kingsley Anaroke shared this position, even as he stressed that Abuja has already become a beehive of activities.
He also indicated that the facility in Uyo had the added advantage of vast land for possible expansion, an issue corroborated by the the Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika.