A Nigerian pilot, Captain Benson Ikponwosa, has warned that there may be more disasters in Nigeria’s air space if the airport authority continues to over tax and over charge the local airlines in its quest to make more money.
Reacting to the recent plane crash in Lagos state, Mr Ikponwosa said the issue is beyond regulation as “we have never been better regulated than we are now and yet these things are happening… I think it’s gone beyond regulations.”
He averred that a lot more attention is paid to paper work than the safety of flights.
As a result of high taxes and charges, airlines are being forced to cut corners leading to late payment of salaries to airline staff.
The airlines in Nigeria are the most tasked and most taxed, he said.
“Sometimes to issue a piece of paper like C of A (certificate of airworthiness), some airlines pay $10,000, for a piece of paper for Christ’s sake.” Ikponwosa added that “when you pay so much money for so many things that you have to have, what happens? You’re pushing airlines to start cutting corners. The airlines are unable to pay their staff salaries”.
He warned that aviation staff who have not been paid salaries for months would serve as easy accomplices to terrorists in the country.
Mr Ikponwosa who landed his first plane, professionally, in Nairobi, Kenya as a co-pilot 1987, revealed that parking fee for the airplane to stay overnight was $60, “at that time, parking fee for that airplane in Nigeria was $200 an hour” and $4,800 dollars for it to stay overnight.
In 2013, the figure has not changed in Kenya, which is why the Nairobi international airport is abuzz all day and all night. “At night, Nairobi is a beehive of activities because that is when all the cargo airplanes come in to carry produce to Europe”.
However, the same cannot be said of the international airports in Lagos and Abuja.
The plans to make the Murtala Muhammed International Airport into a hub will not materialize if you are not ‘operator friendly,’ he said.
He disclosed that the airport authorities deliberately chose to use airport price rates obtainable in airports such as Heathrow, Gatwick, Hong Kong etc. “They have forgotten that you can never take Nigeria and be equating Nigeria with those countries”.
In Ghana, an aircraft is charged $480 per day.
“You have to make the aviation user-friendly and not kill the airlines, he said, adding that domestic airlines in Nigeria are being strangulated as a result of too many charges which are exorbitant.
He called on the regulatory bodies “to look inwards to find out why are these charges overwhelm airlines.”
Many flights have been cancelled at airports across the country as airlines can not meet up with their scheduled flights, due to the aviation fuel scarcity.
Passengers were stranded in airports at the weekend as there were no aircraft to convey them to their various destinations; many of them had to return home or seek alternative means of getting to their destinations.
The airlines that managed to operate, ended up having their passengers delayed for more than six hours while most airlines cancelled their flights as a result of the scarcity and high price of aviation fuel.
The Assistant Secretary General of Airlines Operators of Nigeria (AON), Mohammed Tukur condemned the situation saying “this is the time airline operators should be wary of what is sold to them as aviation fuel…this is the period kerosene could be sold to unsuspecting carriers in the name of aviation fuel.”
A Nigerian newspaper learnt that some foreign airlines headed Accra, Ghana to get fuel to operate their aircraft because the commodity is cheaper in Ghana as a litre sells for between N200 and N210, depending on where it was bought.