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N4b FG Palliatives: Operator pleads for more as NUATE awaits details of bailout

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The much talked about and long awaited covid-19 palliative from the Federal Government for the Nigeria Aviation Industry has been announced.

The sum is N5billion as announced by the Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika.

N4billion is for the airlines and N1billion to other businesses in the industry.
The sum is meant to cushion the effects of the pandemic in the industry and this perhaps is what the Federal Government can afford maybe for now.

However, rather than jubilating, stakeholders in the industry say the amount specifically to the airlines is grossly inadequate because they are the worse hit by the pandemic.

Chairman, Westlinks Airline, Captain Ibrahim Mshelia while applauding the Federal government for the gesture appealed that government should consider increasing the intervention fund as N4billion was grossly inadequate.

“If you look at the contribution aviation does for the country and the effects of the pandemic itself, it hits aviation more than anyone else and I would only plead that the government should rethink it and look at it because there is no economy that would grow in this modern time without aviation.”

Captain Mshelia during an interview on radio, emphasized that if the industry was not given what was needed to thrive and support the operators, the airlines may go into oblivion.

“And if we don’t take time to look at it critically and support aviation, we stand the risk of having our airlines eliminated one by one and in reality, we are suffering, really suffering.” 

He stated that the amount given to the airlines was not even enough for a schedule operator, adding that left for  the Minister he would have done more than this as an aviator as he feels the pains and knows where the shoe pitches.

Captain Mshelia in his suggestion said as palliative a N1trillion or more would be adequate, listing areas were funds were needed urgently by airlines to include aircraft maintenance, training and retraining, spare parts, Jet A1 etc.

“Somebody can’t afford to take his money and buy an aircraft, he has to borrow money, so if you don’t pay the lessor or the financier, he will take his aero plane away that is the major thing. Maintenance is like giving food to service the body which also is very important, we have training, aviation requires a lot of training and retraining all the time, that’s huge sums of money, we have to stock spare parts, you don’t have to wait until your aero plane breaks down before you order parts, we also have to pay for Jet A1 too”.

Comrade Ocheme Aba, General Secretary, National Union of Air Transport Employees, NUATE, says the N4billion was not enough to pay one month salaries of the airline workers.

“When you look at it in terms of the quantum of what is needed as a bailout, then it is really not something we should say hurray about.”

He said they were awaiting details as to what exactly the bailout is meant for, adding that they had earlier submitted to the Minister of aviation how bailout could be properly exercised as suggested by the International Labour Organization, ILO.

“We are waiting to see how they want to apply the bailout, what are the details, until then, it is difficult to make confirmatory statements.”