Just last weekend, the entire nation was met with dissatisfactory notice by Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) to shut down flight operations in the country by Monday, May 9, 2022 due to the unbearable high cost of aviation fuel (JetA1) from N190 to N700 per liter.
The Airline Operators stated this in a letter its President, Alhaji Abdulmunaf Yunusa Sarina, sent to the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika.
Sarina’s position was endorsed by the chief executives of all the domestic airlines.
The letter read: “It is with a great sense of responsibility and patriotism that the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) have carried on deploying and subsidising their services to our highly esteemed Nigerian flying public in the last four months despite the steady and astronomical hike in the price of JetA1 and other operating costs.
“Overtime, aviation fuel price (JetA1) has risen from N190 per litre to N700 currently. No airline in the world can absorb this kind of sudden shock from such an astronomical rise over a short period.
“While aviation fuel worldwide is said to cost about 40% of an airline’s operating cost globally, the present hike has shut up Nigeria’s operating cost to about 95%.
“In the face of this, airlines have engaged the Federal Government, the National Assembly, NNPC and Oil Marketers with the view to bringing the cost of JetA1 down which has currently made the unit cost per seat for a one hour flight in Nigeria today to an average of N120,000.
“The latter cannot be fully passed to passengers who are already experiencing a lot of difficulties.
“While AON appreciates the efforts of the current government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure air transport in Nigeria grows, unfortunately, the cost of aviation fuel has continued to rise unabated thereby creating huge pressure on the sustainability of operations and financial viability of the airlines. This is unsustainable and the airlines can no longer absorb the pressure.
“To this end therefore, the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) hereby wishes to regrettably inform the general public that member airlines will discontinue operations nationwide with effect from Monday May 9, 2022 until further notice.
“AON uses this medium to humbly state that we regret any inconveniences this very difficult decision might cause and appeal to travelers to kindly reconsider their travel itinerary and make alternative arrangements.”
It is indeed sad that this worrisome development in Nigeria, which is a major producer of oil, is another very sad commentary on the unpardonable failure, corruption, incompetence, negative policies and lack of capacity of the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led administration to effectively manage our national economy, the minority leader said.
It is instructive to note that the aviation sector is no longer an exclusive reserve of the elite, but plays central role in the movement of personnel and equipment that drive and sustain services and operations which benefit the masses in healthcare, manufacturing, education, food production, telecommunication, retailing, banking and finance, hospitality, entertainment, power, security and other key sectors.
A shutdown of the aviation sector will therefore cripple millions of businesses as well as economic and commercial activities thereby increasing unemployment, worsen the economic hardship, put pressure on our already ailing roads and exacerbate insecurity in our country.
President Buhari, should critically address the crisis in the petroleum industry by reviewing the counter-productive policies and curbing the corruption in his administration so as to save our national economy from collapse under his watch.
Moreover, he said the situation is a huge threat to the nation’s national integrity as it will erode the confidence of the International Community and foreign investors in Nigeria thereby encouraging the movement of investments to neighboring countries.
We are therefore, urging President Buhari to wake up, as the grave import of the situation needs to be averted, to save the aviation sector and the entirety of the nation life and economy from imminent collapse by immediately addressing the fuel crisis and other challenges in the industry.