AM EDITORIAL: Aviation Is A Global Business, Not A Nigerian Affair

Even though the aviation industry is one of the most regulated sectors of the global economy, guided by Standards and Recommended Practices from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the sector with its capital intensive nature, permits visionary focus, collaborations and alignments, good corporate governance, safety systems compliance, quality customer service, among other standpoints from which nations and corporate organisations have thrived in the industry over the years.

Airline business investment in Nigeria’s aviation sector over the years has been clogged with wrong mindset on the part of some investors, who had perceived the industry from a strict domestic standpoint. This could be contributory to the irony of fact that though Nigeria has supplied aviation experts to various international aviation supervisory organisations, the country’s aviation sector has not been able to assert its position in the global aviation market.

ICAO has had a Nigerian as President just as African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) currently has a Nigerian as Secretary General. African Airlines Association (AFRAA) has had a Nigerian as Secretary General. International Air Transport Association (IATA) has had Nigerians as Regional Directors, and so on. With all these men and women of capacity presiding over decision making bodies for the globe, one would wonder why Nigeria’s aviation industry is not living up to expectations. The answer is that some stakeholders see aviation business strictly as a Nigerian thing by their modus operandi.

This is why aviation agencies trade blames and try to explain away inefficiencies sometimes when abnormalities occur rather than punishing professional misconduct. It is the reason that airlines that fail to comply with passenger compensation requirements in cases of flight delays and cancellations are hardly sanctioned in line with the law. It is the reason that effect of airport infrastructure deficiencies or an airline’s failure to do due diligence is daily shamelessly explained away with the term “operational reasons” and some other beautiful grammatical expressions.

Why has aviation leadership over the years developed preference for keeping the country down in the scheme of things by signing Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASAs) with terms that work against Nigeria? Multiple entry points have been granted to foreign airlines without consideration or supervisory efforts to develop and empower at least, one local airline to grow.

The perception of aviation business as a motor park business by some local airline operators is the reason they cannot follow the progressive growth path of their counterparts in other parts of the world who fruitfully utilize standards maintenance, collaborations, co-operations, code-sharing and other forms of alliances to muster growth power, absorb economic shocks and possibly record profits. Why have Nigeria’s airline operators refused to develop a local airline clearing house? Why is it difficult for them to pool resources together rather than struggle under a one-man CEO affair and keep embarrassing the country before the world, with wobbling and fumbling operations?

For goodness sake, it is collaboration and government’s sincerity of purpose that combined to produce Lome based Asky that currently flies to 28 destinations with a fleet of 15 aircraft after a few years. Collaboration of stakeholders and government’s sincerity are behind the successes of Ethiopian Airlines and RwandAir that are currently under global airline alliances and operate to numerous destinations. The list goes on and on. Aviation is a global business. It is not a Nigerian business.

It is time for stakeholders in Nigeria’s aviation industry to perceive airline business more broadly. For instance, which potential foreign investor visiting Nigeria for the first time, would be onboard a local flight from Lagos (western Nigeria), destined for Abuja (central Nigeria), would find himself in Asaba (near South East) and still be interested in investing in such a country?

Yes. We cannot deny the fact that there are environmental constraints that tend to impede the bridge between pace of the industry’s development in Nigeria and that of other players in the global market. The hurdles of getting an aircraft into Nigeria, safety and security status in the country, payment of high insurance premium of as much as 20% to 30% higher than what airlines pay in other places, access to forex, and other factors are there. However, it is important to note that airlines that are doing well in other African countries equally have peculiar constraints that challenge their operations. The global economy is actually in a mess. Yet, some local airlines are operating qualitatively and even making profits. The world is moving and we are busy explaining failure. The constraints of airline business in Nigeria actually constitute opportunities to enter airline business with a mindset beyond ego aggrandizement and mere street trading engagement.

A well thought out business plan, adequate capital, sustainable internal operating systems and good corporate governance practices can single out an airline for attraction by counterpart international players and connection for collaboration in the interest of first, the airline’s survival and then, public perception, passenger patronage and the overall image of the country. Aviation is a global business. It is not a Nigerian affair.

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Albinus Chiedu

Albinus Chiedu is a journalist, aviation media consultant, events management professional, and author. He has practiced journalism since 2000.

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