I read with tremendous excitement the overview of the report on aviation of the Joda-led transition committee. This is for the simple reason that aviation and indeed civil aviation has been discussed and they have recommendations. This to me means that there is an intention to change things. What we must always remember is that not all changes signals improvement and improvement is what we must always look to effect with our change. Perhaps there is more information aimed at making airline business more profitable in the full report but I would run my commentary on the overview of the report that is public as of yet.
The overview of the report which I recommend that you read by just searching ‘Joda committee recommendation’ on your favorite search engine contains very interesting recommendations which I would review in the other paragraphs of this write up.
The stand out recommendation of the report is no doubt the suggested Merger of indebted airlines to form a PPP and into a National Carrier. While I would like to leave the argument of how easy or otherwise it would be to actually merge the airlines to those concerned, I would like to express that my greatest concern with this comes from the fact that the committee has no recommendations to make sure that in future more airlines do not find themselves in such debt ridden positions. As good as it is to increase capital base benchmark of airlines to ₦2.5Bn and ₦5Bn for domestic and international airlines respectively, this does not assure the profitability of the airline business and we do not need to be so learned to realise that no matter how much you start with, if you keep making losses you will soon be in debt. So merely suggesting a merger and subsequent acquisition makes it look like the government would be willing to acquire more airlines in the future.
Furthermore, we do not need to acquire some airlines neither do we need to for any such partnerships to establish a national carrier. The national carrier has its readymade market in a lot of Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) that Nigeria has with other countries in which no Nigerian airline flies to such countries leaving the carriers from those other nations to milk our collectively owned routes. Yes a national carrier, yes more jobs and all and yes more BASAs and yes that is the way to go with our national carrier and not make it come to stifle the market on the domestic scene.
On the issue of the indebted airlines, the government can set recapitalization benchmarks and deadlines to improve the status of current airlines and work with the airlines to create a program that will help them to offset their debts or face folding up or acquisition.
We have a growing number of those waiting to see what the government makes of the recommendations submitted to it and the delivery of great aviation services that includes but not limited to repairs and upgrade of passenger facilities, including air-conditioning systems and luggage processing systems, to improve customer experience and indeed our aviation sector.