Disturbed by the exit of foreign airlines operating in Nigeria, the Senate yesterday disclosed its plans to summon the Aviation Minister, Senator Hadi Serika, with a view to finding lasting solutions to the problem bedeviling the aviation sector.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation, Senator Adamu Aliero, made the disclosure yesterday while speaking to journalists immediately after a maiden meeting between the committee and various aviation agencies which held at the National Assembly complex, Abuja.
According to the lawmaker, the shortage of aviation fuel in the country, which led to some foreign airlines shutting down operations in Nigeria was a problem that could be resolved by the federal government.
He added that inspite of Nigeria being an oil producing country, it was most embarrassing to find local and foreign airlines purchasing aviation fuel from neighbouring countries.
Lamenting the challenges of funding faced by the aviation sector, Senator Aliero assured that the National Assembly will amend the constitution so as to make for convenient repatriation of funds owed by airlines to the coffers of the federal government.
The lawmaker also stated that for the aviation industry to thrive, there was the need to unbundle the sector, adding that so doing would shore up its revenue profile.
He said: “From what the committee was made to understand, the most major problem faced by foreign airlines is aviation fuel which is a major problem in Nigeria. Inspite of the country being an oil producing one, it is embarrassing that airlines get their products from neighbouring countries.
“As regards repatriation of funds, it is more of a constitutional problem. We will look at ways of fine tuning the constitution so as to make it possible for airlines to remit funds owed government.
There is also the need to unbundle the aviation sector. We are of the opinion that if this is done, the operations of the sector will be liberalised an that will go a long way to boosting revenue generated. So, these are the issues, and since these problems exist, we will invite the Aviation minister so we can find a lasting solutions to them.”
Earlier, a member of the committee, Senator Ibn Na’Allah, who also called for the unbundling of the aviation sector, said the challenges presently faced by the aviation sector makes it imperative for relevant agencies to re-evaluate their policies going forward.
“We are all aware where we are. With the economy, and we are aware how much the aviation sector can generate for the country.
“We must think of unbundling the aviation sector. We have unreasonable over burdened ourselves. If what we have tried in the past has not worked, is it not time to re-evaluate our policies for the aviation sector. We must change our way of doing things; we have to at this point because we have no option, so we can move the industry forward,” Na’Allah said.
The lawmaker, while also calling for the liberalization of flying under the Nigerian Law, stated that the development continually hinders Nigerian pilots from competing for international jobs with their foreign counterparts.
According to him, pilots and aeronautical engineers trained in the country are unfit for employment as a result of the unavailability of aircrafts needed to practicalise already acquired knowledge.
Speaking on challenges in the sector, Femi Ogunode, who represented the Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, lamented the reduction in passenger traffic, saying that “airlines in the country are leaving Nigeria”.