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No Immediate Solutions To Troubled Aviation Sector — Minister of Aviation, Sirika

Minister of Aviation, Mr Hadi Sirika, has sought Nigerians understanding over the litany of challenges plaguing the sector, saying they were more of a global crisis than local.

The Minister stated this in Abuja on Tuesday, at an emergency meeting with the Airline Operators Association of Nigeria (AON) over the scarcity of Jet A1 (aviation fuel), which now sells for N1,000/litre; among other operational issues suffocating them.

According to him, the impact of the global energy crisis, exacerbated by the Russia-Ukraine war, was being felt in Nigeria.

He added that the nature of the challenges robs Nigeria the capacity to produce immediate solutions to the crises rocking the aviation sector.

He ruled out short term solutions as the problems were global in dimension.

He said: “Energy crisis is real and it is global. Today, there are aviation fuel problems all over the world. From America to New Zealand, the story is the same. It is aggravating in Nigeria because we don’t produce the product. It aggravated also because the foreign exchange is scarce in Nigeria because the source of earning the foreign exchange has also dwindled”.

He reiterated that the Federal Government had in the past sourced 10,000 metric tonnes of aviation fuel for the airlines, adding that the government was willing to do more as resources permit.

He added: “As we speak, the government is in the process of finding a permanent solution to this issue”.

Reeling out solutions, Sirika listed the importation of the Jet A1 at appropriate price, accelerating the refurbishment of the refineries and also waiting for the coming on stream of Dangote Refinery to boost supply of the product.

“So when you ask how soon, I wouldn’t know when Dangote will come on stream, I wouldn’t know how soon the refineries will be fixed, I wouldn’t know when imports would become sufficient. But the government is working towards all these to happen” he assured.

He also said he will meet with relevant stakeholders, including the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to work out modalities that ensure the airlines access dollars at the official market rate rather than the black market rate.

In his remarks, the President, AON, Alh. Abdulmunaf Yunusa Sarina, said the aviation fuel crises began from N180 per litre and now it’s at N1,000 per litre.

He also stated that the forex crisis remains a huge burden on industry players and stakeholders.

“The rate at which the dollar is escalating now is very alarming. Everyday, a difference between 10-15 naira is added at the parallel market. Last week Monday, it was N610 but today, it is N670 to one dollar” he said.

He, thus, called on the Minister to intervene.

Also commenting, Mr. Allen Oyeama, the Vice President, AON, said the body was satisfied with the government’s intervention in the Industry.

“We, the airline operators are satisfied with the approach the government is bringing to the table. I told you Mr. President, in order to alleviate our sufferings approved 10,000MT of fuel. Another 5,000 has come in. We are about to start accessing that. We are pleased with the approach for the long run” he said.

He also agreed that the solution was not in the short term.

“It is not easy to give a timeline to issues like this because the challenge is global. Even the American airlines are threatened too. It’s not only Nigeria. Which is why we are appealing to the government. But we are pleased so far, ” he said.

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