The continued inability of airline operators in the country to access foreign exchange to run their operations is slowing down business activities in the aviation industry.
Though the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA has assured efforts are on to assist the airlines through the Ministry of Aviation to access forex, their efforts seem to be slow.
Airline business run successfully largely on foreign exchange to ensure safety and smooth operations.
Aircraft maintenance, purchase of aircraft parts, ground handling equipment, foreign technical assistance are all in dollars.
Currently, owners of maintenance facilities, airline operators and other ancillary service providers say they are finding it extremely difficult to get spare parts, pay dues and for other technical services due to paucity of foreign exchange.
They said the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, hardly gives out forex to the industry and their only alternative is the black market at the rate of N470 to a dollar which had increased their cost of operations.
An airline operator, Chief Obiora Okonkwo called for a special window for the airlines.
‘Nothing much has been done, you need $100,000, you get $10,000 you wait for another month you cant work like that, there must be a special window, a special funding process”.
While it may take the industry a longer period to recover from the pandemic, access to forex has further compounded the industry problem.
The President, Association of Aircraft Hangar Owners of Nigeria, Mr. Isaac Balami stated that many aircrafts were due for maintenance but owners cannot source spares because of scarcity of forex.
He stated that some foreign business partners have left as a result of the pandemic and urged airline owners to do their Checks in the country to save funds.
CBN hardly gives us forex, it is right, very, very tight before you can get for N300 but now it is about N470, N480 that alone has increased the cost for now it is only black market because if you to wait for CBN, you will wait for a long time“.
Not also left out in this forex challenge are members of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agency, NANTA, who are experiencing difficulties making on-time foreign currency payments of their dues to the International Air Transport Association, IATA.
About four years ago, many foreign airlines could not repatriate their $600 million accruing from ticket sales back home due to paucity of forex.
Though the funds had since been repatriated to their home country, that same situation may perhaps be building up with this recent complaints from operators about access to forex.
President, NANTA Mrs. Susan Akporiaye and the Financial Secretary Mr. Daisi Olotu say it is a cause for concern.
“The money is there, we have not been able to buy forex. this is a genuine fund needed for sustainability”
However, spokesman for the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA said they were not unaware of the forex issue but working closely with the Central Bank of Nigeria on the matter.
NCAA has continued to be in the forefront of leading the airlines to the minister and to CBN to make a case, we have always done that, we have no other thing than to do that, it is part of our responsibility to ensure that those who we are overseeing also remain in business and succeed”.
He emphasized that the existence of the airlines mean their own existence and everything would be done to ensure the operators remain in business and get returns on their investments.