As Nigerian airlines continue to gasp for breath as a result of the collapsing value of the Naira and scarcity of foreign exchange, an active player in the industry, Capt. David Olubadewo has called for a special exchange rate for the airlines to alleviate the hardship they are facing in accessing foreign currency.
If government accepts the proposal, he said, it should not leave it and go to sleep; financial experts in the banks that would give out the foreign exchange to the airlines must give close marking to them to ensure that it is utilised for the purpose for which it is given.
According to him, if things go wrong arising from the items purchased by the airlines with the special exchange rate, the experts should be able to hold the airlines accountable for their actions.
Captain Olubadewo said that the local airlines are groaning due to unstable value of the Nigerian currency against major international currencies, pointing out that 78% airlines expenses are in foreign exchange.
The Chief Executive Officer of Starbust Aviation Limited explained that Nigerian airlines sell tickets in Naira, buy fuel in Naira and many other transactions in Naira while aircraft spare parts and overflyer charges are denominated in dollars.
Another knotty issue, he said, is that the rate of clearance is not known to the operators. Sources revealed that the Nigerian Customs Service does not know what constitutes aircraft spares. Argument had often ensued between operators and the customs because of aircraft tyres. Because it (tyre) is rubber, customs officials do not believe it should be treated as spare.
Government, according to him, cannot solve all our problems but should be able to provide enabling environment for business to thrive by treating all parties equally.
On the plight of the staff of the liquidated Nigeria Airways, he said:” It is rather sad. It is unfortunate that the staff are yet to be paid. It was not right, in the first instance, for the government to have liquidated the airline. It had more assets than liabilities at the time it applied the hammer on it.”