Monday, July 4, 2022

Aviation Fuel Crisis: AON Shelves Planned Withdrawal Of Services

…Strike not against govt., FG clarifies

FAAN

The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has rescinded its plan to withdraw services and ground air travel throughout Nigeria over the astronomical increase in the price of aviation fuel (JetA1) in Nigeria.

A statement issued by the AON president, Dr. Abdulmunaf Sarina, over the weekend had notified the public of the intention of member airlines to shut down operations nationwide with effect from today (Monday, May 9, 2022), until further notice, over the unabated rise of JetA1 from N190 per litre to N700. Sarina cited the inability of airline operators to break even and urged members of the public to make alternative travel arrangements. 

The group, however, rescinded its decision again over the weekend, having been prevailed upon by government to reconsider its planned line of action and promised to wade in and take action to cushion the effects of the shock created by the rise in the price of aviation fuel.

“The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) wishes to inform the general public that, further to numerous calls from the highest echelons of government with promises to urgently intervene in the crises being faced by airlines due to the astronomic and continuously rising cost of JetA1, the AON has acceded to requests to withdraw the action for the time being while we allow for a fresh round of dialogue with the government in the hope of reaching an amicable solution. 

“We have also reached this decision with the highest consideration for our esteemed customers who have been faced with uncertainty over the last few days and to enable them to have access to travel to their various destinations for the time being during the period of discussions with relevant authorities.

“Given the above and in the interest of national economy and security considerations, AON hereby wishes to notify the general public that the earlier announced shutdown of operations for May 9, 2022, is hereby suspended in good fate pending the outcome of, hopefully, fruitful engagement with government,” the statement read. 

Reacting to the development, the Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, lauded the operators’ actions and described it as “patriotic” in the face of glaring challenges.

“From the time the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) issued a notice of withdrawal of flight services as a result of the rising cost of Jet A1 (Aviation fuel) and despite the initial statement by the ministry detailing efforts to address the knotty issue while soliciting more understanding from AON, enquiries have continued to flood in. Some are under the erroneous impression that the planned withdrawal of flight services was directed against the government,” said a statement by the special assistant to the minister of aviation on public affairs, James Odaudu.

The statement clarified that the decision of the association was not against the government but purely based on business, as they are private businesses reacting to market forces while appealing for the government’s intervention to enable them to carry on with their operations.

It elucidated that the ministry has always made conscious efforts to assist and promote the operational interests of AON, some of which include facilitating a meeting between the association and President Muhammadu Buhari, during which it got several concessions, including duty-free importation of aircraft, engines, spare parts and components.

“The honourable minister at various times personally took members of the association to engage with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to sort out issues of access to foreign exchange (FOREX) for their operations and also with the NNPC, to explore ways of ensuring the availability of aviation fuel (JET A1) through importation or from the major Marketers at affordable prices.

“It should also be recalled that members of the association were also considered and given bail-out funds to the tune of N4 billion during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that they remained afloat. This was without prejudice to the fact that most of them were heavily indebted to aviation agencies (as they still are).

“We believe that members of the association are patriots who have continued to bear the brunt of unfavourable global oil market dynamics for which we salute their doggedness.

“It is gratifying that members of the association have started reviewing the decision to withdraw flight services from tomorrow, with Ibom Air, Green Africa Airlines, Arik, Dana and some others indicating that they will carry on with their normal flight schedules. We hope and believe that a few hesitant members will consider the dire implications of the planned action for businesses and individuals and review their decisions likewise. 

“We also wish to assure foreign airlines operating in the country that all the requisite logistics and services for their operations remain in place as usual and that no disruptions whatsoever should be envisaged. 

“As a government, we reiterate our commitment to the continued growth of the aviation industry where airlines and other service providers operate in a conducive, supportive and profitable business environment,” it added. 

Oluchi Okorafor
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