The year 2021 was an eventful year in the aviation sector.
In this special report Aviation correspondent Nosa Aituamen brings to life the activities that made 2021 in aviation worthy of mention.
A combination of factors helped the aviation sector to get back on its feet a few months into the year after the COVID-19 lockdown was lifted.
Despite the Covid-19 challenges, the aviation sector witnessed exponential increase in investments in aircraft, airports and aircraft maintenance facilities.
The acquisition of new aircraft and emergence of new domestic airlines in the year under review led to renewed passenger confidence and increase in domestic travel.
The Director General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu said Year 2021 was a challenging one but fruitful from the domestic market point of view.
“The industry has done fairly well, the domestic industry is going in a fantabulous rate, we want to get to a place where aviation plays a very significant contributions to the GDP on a short and medium terms, at least 5 percent”.
Unfortunately, in the middle of the year, the outbreak of a new variant of the coronavirus called Omicron almost scuttled the gradual increase in international travel.
This however led to some countries placing Nigeria on their red list.
Though this was not peculiar to Nigeria, the World Health Organization, WHO Executive Director, Health Emergencies Programme, Dr. Mike Ryan warned countries to desist from hiding under the Covid to impose travel ban for political reasons.
“Our concern here is that we apply public health principles not political principles in selecting measures use to control the spread of the disease”.
As if that was not enough, the United Arab Emirates, UAE, came up with certain restrictions to bar Nigerians and Nigerian airlines from operating into Dubai.
While approval was given for its airline, Emirates, to operate 21 frequencies based on the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) signed, the Arab nation restricted a Nigerian carrier, Air Peace to one weekly flight out of 21 frequencies.
In a swift retaliation, the federal government reduced Emirates Airlines’ frequencies to just one and into Abuja while it stopped the airline from operating to Lagos.
This development was applauded by the former spokesman, Nigeria Airways Limited, Mr. Chris Aligbe.
“For the first time Nigeria is giving appropriate response. What Nigeria has done is a standard thing that should be done the principle of absolute reciprocity”.
To stimulate more activities in the industry, the federal government through the minister of aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika announced February and April 2022 as take off dates of the national carrier christened Nigeria Air as well as the concession of four major airports.
“This airline will start on or before in April 2022”.
The Acting Director Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, ICRC, Mr. Michael Ohiani, says private sector investment in airport concession is the way to go in infrastructure development in the industry.
“We don’t want portfolio investors, we want those who would bring value to the concession processes, let the private sector bring in their experts, their own money and enhance it at the end of the day take back our assets”.
These announcements elicited mixed reactions from stakeholders as the commencement dates and sharing formulae did not go down well with them.
“If foreigners own a majority shareholding in that airline, they should remove the word National from the carrier”..Comrade Ocheme Aba, Secretary General, NUATE.
“Why are you the one providing the aircraft? Why are you providing the maintenance? Is that part of the 5%?.. Femi Adeniji..Stakeholder.
“We have a name, we don’t even know who the shareholders are..Captain Ibrahim Mshelia, Airline Operator.
“My fear is, how will they pass the rigorous five process of the AOC within this short period”…Olu Ohunayo, aviation analyst.
Year 2022 promises to be a good year in the industry because of the policies and projects to be executed by the federal government.
They will no doubt stimulate growth, development and competition among operators as more airlines are to emerge.