Overseas maintenance of commercial airplanes operating in the country currently costs Nigeria at least $2.5 billion or N1.52 trillion ($1:N608) in capital flight yearly.
The mandatory maintenance programme, ranging from minor to complex checks per session on an aircraft, costs about $2 million (N1.2 billion), and a cumulative burden on the industry in particular.
Besides, the misfortunes of the weak Naira-to-Dollar exchange rate, perennial lack of high-capacity Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities since the 90s has been the undoing of the country. Though the current administration promised to have one in place as part of the Aviation Roadmap initiative of 2016, the plan is yet to become a reality.
Speaking yesterday in Abuja, at the maiden edition of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) National Aviation Conference (FNAC), the Managing Director of FAAN, Capt. Rabiu Yadudu, said such capital flight would have been avoided if the country had MRO facilities that could adequately cater for all types of commercial airplanes.
Yadudu noted that to carry out C-check on Boeing 737 aircraft or its equivalent, airlines expend at least $1.8 million. The C-check is carried out on aircraft every 18 months.
He regretted that Nigeria’s potential and capacity in the global air transport industry was being grossly under-utilised, adding that if stakeholders in the industry are indeed desirous of attaining the status of a major player in the global aviation sphere, it was high time the country leveraged backward integration to move the industry forward.
He explained that the focus of the conference was on Nigeria, because the country has the largest fleet of aircraft within the sub-region.
“It was reported that Nigeria lost $2.5 billion (about N1.52 trillion) in MRO investments to neighbouring countries. Having such investments here would have created more employment opportunities for Nigerians, revenue generation and training of technical personnel for maintenance of aircraft.
”The link and value chain between the air transport, tourism and hospitality industries for economic growth cannot be over emphasised. Today, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, London bridge, Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa, the British museum in United Kingdom, and so on, have all been consciously developed into major tourist attractions that drive passenger traffic to those destinations, and by implication, attract businesses and generate employments for the locals and foreigners alike. Those are worthy examples for us to emulate,” Yadudu said.
arlier, Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, in his goodwill message, disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari would soon sign into law, the passed Civil Aviation Bill.
Sirika assured that with the president’s assent to the bill, the Nigerian aviation industry would grow rapidly, while more opportunities are going to be created for all stakeholders and investors.
He reiterated that the Aviation Industry Roadmap as approved by the Federal Government was fashioned after the Public Private Participation (PPP) model with the plan to grow the entire sector.
He challenged investors to tap into the myriads of opportunities in the sector, especially with the recently approved 12,000 hectares of land for implementation of the aviation roadmap by the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Some projects of the aviation roadmap include MRO, Aviation Leasing Company, National Carrier, Aerospace University, Airport Concession and Aerorropolis amongst others.
Sirika said: “We are ready to pursue all the components of the roadmap. Every part of the roadmap has reached advanced stages and all would be delivered before the end of this administration. Aviation industry in Nigeria is a goldmine, but it is still virgin. Globally, the core variable that sustains the aviation industry is safety and security. We must continue to sustain these in the country.”
He reiterated that the Federal Government was willing and ready to discuss business, and partner with investors to bring the desired growth and development to the industry.
Capt. Bob Hayes, the first Nigerian pilot, in his address congratulated FAAN for putting together the conference to discuss challenges militating the efficiency of this industry, as well as proffering long lasting solutions to the challenges.
Hayes stated that all the government’s roadmap for the sector would grow the industry if well implemented and called on all investors to partner with the government in order to ensure industry growth.
The Guardian learnt that back in the days of the Nigerian Airways, a national carrier owned and operated by the Federal Government until 2003, had all its checks done locally.
A member of the engineering team, Ayuba Kyari, recalled that the Lagos hangar conducted C-checks on Boeing 737 aircraft type and D-check on Airbus A310 in the fleet of 30 aircraft paraded by the defunct airline. The MRO facility was liquidated with the airline in 2004.
Today, all local airlines in commercial operations fly to France, Germany, Lithuania, South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia, among others, to do C-checks. Arik Air, for instance, currently patronises a MRO facility in Lithuania, a country of about 2.8 million population size.