On Thursday July 13, 2017,Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative(ASRTI) held its quarterly Breakfast Meeting with a theme: ‘Aviation as a Catalyst for Economic Growth.’ It had in attendance Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Professor Anthony Kila, Director of Studies, Centre for International Advance and Professional Studies, Mr. Allen Onyema, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Air Peace, Dr.WaleBabalakin, Chairman, Bi-Courtney Aviation Service Limited, Mr.AyokuLiadi, Executive Director Lagos and South West UBA Plc. Also at the event were other stakeholders and professional groups in the sector. Everybody spoke from their own perspective of the Nigerian aviation industry.
What caught our attention is Mr. Onyema’s allegation that” some operators blocked Air Peace from operating from the Murtala Muhammed Airport Terminal-2 in Lagos. Isn’t that wickedness? We have 22 aircraft.” Chairman of Bi-Courtney Aviation Services, Dr. Wale Babalakin, owner of the Terminal, as well as the Managing Director of the Terminal, Captain Jari Williams, were all at the venue where Mr. Onyema made the allegation. None of them countered him.
We are at a loss. What is it that will make an operator to prevail on the management of a terminal to stop an airline from using the same facilities? What we do not know is whether the operator is an airline or terminal operator. Whichever or whoever is behind it, we consider it unethical. Operators should be free especially where there are choices for them to determine where they want to operate from within the country so long they meet all the requirements spelt out by the terminal operators.
If there is no harmonious relationship among Nigerian players, the industry will be worst for it. Myriad glitches besetting the sector will continue to mount if those involved in aviation business see themselves as enemies instead of bracing up for healthy competition. Pride, ego, air of superiority, ill wishes and envy are the antithesis of growth. Arrogance contributed to the high airlines mortality rate in Nigeria. We are encouraged by the partial merger going on now among the local airlines. Unlike before when any of them have problems with their flights, their passengers would not be accepted by their competitors going to the same destinations.
We think that instead of operators dissipating their energies trying to prevent an airline from using a particular terminal, they would do Nigeria a world of good if they should focus more on how to improve facilities that will bring comfort to the passengers. Travellers have not reneged in calling for more improvement in the sector, including terminal building that should be more of concern to the operators.
For instance, if an airline is given all the advantages and all the protection over others by the power that be or from above, if the airline is lamed, its disabilities will be visible with time. You do not give what you do not have. We have seen foreigners with some Nigerian collaborators that enjoyed uncommon privilege of using their airlines to do domestic operations from the international wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, had the backing of the authorities, all other Nigerian operators and unions cried out to high heaven, challenged the action of the authorities that it was another colonialism. All their cacophonous protests fell on deaf ears. Today, both the airline and their operators are now consigned to the annals of history.
The operator that prevails on the management of Terminal -2 to disallow Air Peace from using the place should have a rethink and re- examine itself and have a change of heart and be broad minded in its business approach. Today, it is Air Peace. Who knows whose turn it will be tomorrow? The country is yearning for more investors to boost the nation’s economy. The news of terminal restriction will be a wrong signal to a would- beoperator. Intending airlines may have a preferred terminal in mind for its operations. Airlines should not be forced into terminals if that is not the norm. This un-necessary man made artificial hurdle placed on the path of airlines should be discouraged. The airlines add value to the economy like many other businesses in the sector.