Reps demand N50bn airlines bailout, fear sector’s collapse

The House of Representatives has said Nigeria’s aviation sector needs about N50bn to cushion the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic while dismissing the N4bn proposed by the Federal Government as grossly inadequate.

The House Committee on Aviation, which addressed journalists in Abuja on Monday, noted that other countries were providing bailouts to the aviation industry.

Chairman of the committee, Nnolim Nnaji, said the just concluded public hearing on the amendment bills for the review of some aspects of the civil aviation Acts had brought to the fore ‘the impending crisis in the aviation industry which require urgent attention’.

While alleging over regulation of domestic airlines, the committee decried inadequate night landing facilities in most of the airports, thereby affecting the operating flight hours daily.

Nnaji said, “As a parliament, we are going to look into these demands and, more especially, to find out why the Nigeria Customs Service would not respect the President’s Executive Order on duty exemption and other palliatives meant to lighten the burdens of the airlines.

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“The multiple entries for foreign airlines is equally an important concern raised by the operators which must be looked into.

“The aviation sector requires huge capital for infrastructural development.

“The Federal Government’s N4bn bailout to the airlines and some palliatives to the agencies (not yet released) is too small. The airlines need at least N50bn bailout funds to cushion the coronavirus effect.

“We are requesting that other mechanisms should be introduced as a support to avert the collapse of the aviation sector.”

Similarly, the Senate on Monday warned that travelling by air was now very risky and dangerous as a result of the poor state of aircraft being used to convey passengers by the operators.

The Senate Committee on Aviation raised the alarm after reviewing the views expressed by stakeholders during its recent public hearing it held on the six bills meant to reform the aviation sector.

Chairman of the Committee, Senator Smart Adeyemi, who addressed journalists in Abuja, said many of the operators had started cutting corners because the Federal Government was not helping their bid to put their aircraft in good conditions.

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Adeyemi said apart from increasing the N4bn bailout to the sector, the Federal Government should also cancel import duties on the spare parts the operators were bringing in to the country.

He said the issue of Value Added Tax should also not be applicable to the aviation sector.

He said, “I want to put it on record that there is danger in flying in Nigeria today. There are instances of some planes skidding off the runway.

“We must support the airline operators pending when we have our own national carrier.”

He said the aviation sector is regarded as a strategic industry, not only for its potential for economic growth, but also its crucial role in national development and regional integration.

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