By Yunus Yusuf
Dr Gbenga Olowo, President, Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), says the proposed bailout fund for aviation sector remains a condition for survival of the industry that has not been quite strong and competitive prior to COVID-19 pandemic.
Olowo told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos that failure by the Federal Government not to offer bailout to the aviation sector would jeopardise the survival of domestic airlines in the industry.
The Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Mr Clem Agba, had on May 5, said that the Federal Government proposed to inject N2 trillion as intervention into the economy.
Agba also said the government would support airlines as the aviation sector loses N21 billion monthly, due to the pandemic.
Olowo, however, commended the Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, and his team for the laudable initiative to give bailout to the aviation.
He said: “Arik, Aero were already economically under Intensive Care Unit before COVID-19 and many others with names withheld.
“The N2 trillion, which is approximately 5 billion dollars, may not be enough for airlines alone, not to talk of airports, GDSs TMCs, OTAs, Travel Agents, Ground Handlers, Catering and the entire supply chain for loss of business and negative impact of COVID-19 during the lockdown and flight restrictions.
“Best approach will be to do three years average business revenue of stakeholders and prorate their losses for grants.
“Better still the government can pay wage bill for initial period of six months covering second and third quarter of 2020 to prevent job losses.
“Option of loans and loan guarantees at less than five per cent interest rate, tax waivers, VAT exemptions, tax holidays should also be considered.”
Olowo stated that on the extension of flight operations by four weeks, “regrettably, data had confirmed that they had not been able to flattened the curve”.
He said the ratios of confirmed and discharged cases of the virus had also not improved, adding that it had moved from 5:1 to 6:1 rather than reducing.
According to him, this is a very negative signal given social distancing is practically impossible in aviation business, a sufficient condition for health and safety is to defer flight operations.
Also commenting, the Secretary General, Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), retired Group Capt. John Ojikutu, expresed worry on the plans put in place by the airlines operators to begin operations.
Ojikutu asked if the operators had submitted their plans to the responsible authority, NCAA, for consideration and approval.
“With the evidence of the COVID-19 pandemic still spreading, there is need for aviation authority to issue out safety directives.
“This is to allow each operator to review their inflight safety plans that can sustain their operations in the environment of the pandemic.
“Without these programmes in the sector, the quality of safety and health services for the passengers can not be guaranteed,” he said.
Ojikutu, however, said he was aware that the safety and health directives had been issued with the guidance materials to the various operators and it would take some time for each to get the plans ready for approval before their operations could start.
The expert further said that the four weeks extension to open the airports for operation was sufficient. (NAN)