EXPERTS and stakeholders have described as grossly inadequate the N5billion proposed as COVID -19 Intervention Fund for airlines and others providing services in the industry.
They said though the government meant well for players in sector, the N4 billion announced by Aviation Minister, Captain Hadi Sirika as intervention to indigenous carriers and another N1 billion for other businesses in the sector was enough indication that the sector is on a slow march to recovery.
Sirika, who disclosed the intervention plan last week in Abuja, at the just-concluded three-day Public Hearing hosted by the Senate Committee on Aviation, said the criteria for the disbursement of the funds were underway.
Worried over the development, President, Aviation Safety Roundtable Initiative (ASRTI), Gbenga Olowo, berated the government for approving a paltry N4 billion as intervention fund for the airline industry.
He said such a move by the government was not only insensitive but an after-thought at a time indigenous carriers were grappling with about N360 billion loss.
Olowo said : ” Mr President and Minister Hadi Sirika, thank you for the palliative. Domestic airlines alone are owing about N22 billion to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). Domestic carriers incurred over N360 billion loss. This is as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Reasonable countries intervened in their aviation industries in the second or third month. This is the eighth month and Nigeria is just responding.
” I think the government should just leave us to die, then we will know Nigeria has no aviation industry. N4billion palliative for the aviation industry is very insensitive. I condemn it totally.
” The airline industry is not made up of aeroplanes alone; there are allied services, people that produce onboard service are part of it; there are those who produce distribution, which we call sales and marketing, these are now outsourced and it is all part of the aviation industry.
“This is without forgetting handling companies, they are all part of aviation. So how do you want to share N4billion among them?”
On his part Chairman West Link Airline, Captain Ibrahim Mshelia who lauded the Federal Government for the gesture appealed for an upward review to about a trillion naira.
“If you look at the contribution aviation does for the country and the effects of the pandemic itself, it hit aviation more than anyone else and I would only plead that the government should rethink it and look at it because there is no economy that would grow in this modern time without aviation.”
Captain Mshelia stressed that the Minister needs to do more in convincing the Federal Executive Council of the genuineness of airlines’ cause.
He said: “If we don’t take time to look at it critically and support aviation, we stand the risk of having our airlines eliminated one by one and in reality, we are suffering, really suffering.”
In suggesting the N1trillion bailout, Captain Mshelia listed areas where funds were needed urgently by airlines including aircraft maintenance, training and retraining, spare parts, Jet A1.
Head of Research, Zenith Travels, Olumide Ohunayo said the bailout should be no less than N100 billion.
He argued that airlines in other countries are already accessing the second tranche of bailout which includes a reduction of service charges to about 50 per cent which is currently ongoing in various parts of Europe.
Ohunayo said,” Sincerely, I think that N4billion for bailout is grossly inadequate and the timing is a bit too late for me.
On what the funds should be, he said :”I don’t think anything less than N100b is too big. it’s not like you’re giving them this money free, it will be a loan and they will pay back.if you’re given them free, I’d say yes it’s okay but you are not, so bring out the conditions let’s see how the condition favors them or are we waiting for new airlines to come and join them?
“You cannot do it for airlines who are dead or who are just coming in airlines , which without an Air Operators ‘ Certificates? For me, this should be strictly for the scheduled operators.
Chairman Senate Committee on Aviation Smart Adeyemi informed the minister that its proposed N5billion COVID-19 intervention fund was inadequate and unacceptable as it will not be enough to save jobs in the industry or keep aircraft in the air.