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Covid-19:  Over 125,000 aviation jobs under threat – Minister

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—-as Nigeria loses $994milion revenue in the sector in 2020

Abiola Seun

The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika over the weekend said 125,370 persons are at risk of job loss in the nation’s aviation industry due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the nation’s aviation sector.

This was even as the National Assembly said that the aviation sector needed consistent palliatives,  saying the N5bn intervention fund by the federal government for the sector is too meagre to re-start the industry after the Covid-19 disruption that led to total shutdown of the nation’s economy, including the aviation sector.

The Minister, who stated this at the  25th Annual conference of the League of Airport and Aviation Correspondent (LAAC), theme: ‘Nigeria Aviation Industry: Management, Policy and Regulation’ held in Lagos said the air transport still remain the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to Sirika who was represented by the Chief Executive Officer, Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Engr. Akin Olateru, the statistics  from the International Airline Transport Association (IATA) on COVID-19’s economic impact on Nigeria has revealed a revenue loss of $994 million in 2020.

He stated further that the report said 125,370 employment is at risk in Nigeria with $885million contribution to the GDP already lost.

He said, “as you are aware, Covid-19 has put the global economy to the test, with air transport being undoubtedly the hardest hit by the pandemic.

“The statistics  from the International Airline Transport Association (IATA) on COVID-19’s economic impact on Nigeria has revealed a revenue loss of $994 million in 2020. In terms of employment at risk in Nigeria, it is 125,370 and loss of contribution to the GDP is $885 million”

He, however, said to cushion the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the nation’s aviation sector, the federal government provided N5 billion as intervention fund to domestic airlines.

His words, “the Federal Government was able to cushion the effect of COVID– 19 by providing intervention of fund of N5billion naira to domestic airlines. We could not have achieved all these however without the cooperation, constructive criticism and great understanding of everybody in the industry”

“We are committed to achieving the completion of outstanding projects we have set out for ourselves before our term runs out. We have a vision of a sector that will provide utmost comfort, safety, and security for majority of passengers”

On his part, the chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Aviation’ Nnolim Nnaji said the Federal Government’s bailout fund to airline operators is too meagre.

He said, “The government didn’t do much in terms of bailout for the airlines. The cost of the engine of a Boeing is close to $10 million and what the government provided for all the airlines is about N4 billion, so, when compare to what our airlines got to what they get in other countries, you will find out that they didn’t do much for the industry”

“The aviation industry is a very expensive business and most people do not break even. What they just succeeded in doing is to just keep the business going because everything about the industry is offshore and that is a challenge”

“We have succeeded in getting zero duties for the airlines for the purchase of spare parts. Another issue that they are battling with is the issue of forex.

“Since they buy most of their stuff abroad, it is important that they have access to forex. The planes need to be in the sky all the time because the more you move, the more money you make so that you can pay your bills.
“We would want the Central Bank of Nigeria to create a window for Forex because it will help reduce the airfare.

“For now, I don’t know how the ban on Forex to BDCs will affect airlines but I heard that the black market rate has gone up. I still wonder if banks can manage but from next week, we will get to know how airlines will be affected”

Also speaking at the event, the chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation’, Senator Smart Adeyemi said the aviation sector which is key to the socio-economic development of a nation must be given necessary support to grow.

“I hold a strong view that whether the economy is depressed or not, aviation sector is key and all efforts must be put in place to ensure that all that is needed is provided for this industry.”

“If there is one sector or one agency of government that require palliative consistently, it is the aviation industry especially the airlines, it takes a man with a lion heart to go into the aviation industry.”

© 2021, maritimemag. All rights reserved.

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