‘Go home’: Protests against foreigners resurface in South Africa - THE GUARDIAN
They turned up in a mob of several hundred at a migrant centre in South Africa’s Soweto township — unemployed, wielding weapons and angry with foreigners they accuse of taking their jobs.
“Foreigners, go home,” they cried, according to witnesses.
With unemployment at 35 percent — and rising up to 65 percent among youth — competition for jobs has spawned resentment among some jobless South Africans.
In the past, xenophobic protests have morphed into violence. Attacks against foreigners left at least 62 people dead in 2008, while another seven were killed in similar unrest in 2015.
Armed mobs descended on foreign-owned businesses around the financial hub Johannesburg in 2019. The ensuing clashes left at least 12 people dead, of whom 10 were South African, according to the government.
In recent weeks, scores of protesters have been staging demonstrations against undocumented migrants in what they have dubbed Operation Dudula, Zulu for “drive back”.
At the Methodist migrant community centre in Soweto, where about 100 migrant families live, there had been rumours of an attack.
A horde arrived earlier this month — some wielding traditional Zulu leather whips — at the centre in South Africa’s most famous township, located south of Johannesburg.
“Foreign nationals are stealing jobs that belong to South Africans,” protesters said, according to witnesses.
Sithulisiwe Chinora, a 22-year-old Zimbabwean, recounted how she started shaking violently, her infant wrapped on her back.
“I thought I was going to die that day,” she said.
Father Paul Verryn, who founded the centre, says it is clear who the protesters were.
“They are xenophobic activists, they clearly targeted foreign nationals because they want them out,” said the minister, who is famous for having opened a church in Johannesburg to thousands of undocumented Zimbabweans after the first anti-immigration attacks.
But the Operation Dudula movement says it is pacifist.
Its leader Nhlanhla Lux Dlamini, a man in his thirties from Soweto who often dresses in a military uniform and bullet-proof vest, says he is simply seeking to “restore law and order”.
“The law enforcement is failing us,” he has told reporters.
Foreign worker quota?
Last weekend, Dlamini led a protest outside a supermarket demanding the sacking of foreign workers employed there.
“There is (nothing) xenophobic about that, it’s the law,” he told journalists. “Any job that doesn’t require skill in South Africa belongs to South Africans.”
Around 3.9 million foreigners live in South Africa, a country of almost 60 million, including political refugees, according to official statistics.
Human Rights Watch says foreigners are often made scapegoats in a country with one of the world’s most unequal societies.
Jay Naidoo, a founding member of the Cosatu workers’ union, said anti-immigrant arguments did not hold up.
“Even if they were to expel all the immigrants, our level of crime would not drop, neither our level of joblessness,” he said.
So far, the latest demonstrations have not spiralled into violence.
A police source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said law enforcement was keeping an eye on the demonstrations.
But “the right to protest is enshrined in the country’s constitution and so far, they haven’t committed any action that required the police to enforce the law,” the source said.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday the authorities were closely watching “pockets of groupings that are trying to foment a type of negative attitudes” towards foreigners.
At the start of the month, the government said it was working on a law to install a quota for foreign workers in South African companies.
Passport issuance: Many Nigerians in Qatar risk job loss, deportation - ICIR
BY Oghenekevwe Uchechukwu
NIGERIANS residing in Qatar have continued to face difficulty acquiring a Nigerian passport as the embassy in Doha does not have the machines to process the travel document, but relies on the passport intervention team in the United Arab Emirates.
This situation has resulted in a backlog of applications and many Nigerians living and working in the country would be unable to renew their work permits and could lose their jobs, have their bank accounts blocked or worse still, face deportation.
In an interview with Doha News on Friday, former Qatar branch President of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation’s (NIDO-Qatar) Victor Ikoli, stressed that the most pressing issue throughout his four-year tenure in office was the renewal and issuance of Nigerian passports.
“Over 130 passports are yet to be issued, thereby exposing the individuals to job termination and deportation if their residence cards were invalid, and possibly bank account closure among others,” Okoli was quoted as saying.
Speaking further, he expressed disappointment over the delay with procurement of passport machines for the embassy and called on the Nigerian government to quickly intervene in the situation.
Last year, a Town Hall meeting was organised to address the delays with processing passports for Nigerians in Qatar, at a time when there were over 1000 pending applications for renewal and new passports.
The head of Consular at the Nigerian Embassy in Qatar Musa Abubakar said that the embassy had been selected as one of the potential destinations to receive a passport machine as soon as they are procured.
Nigeria’s missions abroad are grossly underfunded and recent disclosure made by the House of Representatives show that for many years, over 70 per cent of country’s foreign missions have received no budgetary allocation
Stressing on the issue of poor funding for diplomat missions, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama, has said foreign missions were becoming a “terrible embarrassment” for the country at the global stage as small budgetary allocations are affecting their effectiveness in responding to the expansive structure of diplomatic services.
Nigerian Airlines Hike Fares as Aviation Fuel Rises to N420 Per Litre - ARISE NEWS
Less than 10 days after domestic airlines lamented that oil marketers have increased price of Jet A1 (aviation fuel) to N400 per litre, the price of the product has increased to N420 per litre in Lagos and N450 per litre at other airports outside Lagos and Abuja. This has prompted domestic airlines to increase base fare to over N50, 000 per flight.
THISDAY learnt the price of aviation fuel increased to N420 per litre on Sunday, as against the N400 per litre it was on Thursday, without prior notice to the airlines.
But depending on the city where the airport is located, the price hovers around N420 and N450 per litre, especially in northern part of the country, where it is predicted that the price could rise to N500 per litre in few days.
THISDAY also learnt that as the price is now subject to the exchange rate of the naira against the dollars, until when the country begins to refine the product locally.
“As at today (Sunday), a litre of fuel goes for N420 in Lagos and it is between N430 and N450 in some northern states. The fact is that the price of the product may go higher as aviation fuel is scarce in the country.
“About three weeks ago, the product was scarce in all the airports in the country and this contributed to some of the delayed flights we experienced at that period. The government needs to arrest the situation before it goes out of hand,” a source told THISDAY.
Defending the increase in airfares, a spokesman of one of the major domestic airlines told THISDAY that the new fares were a response to the increase in the price of aviation fuel, the increase in the cost of handling rates by aviation handling companies and also the exchange rate. The official said airlines had to increase fares in order to survive, insisting that without that, most of the airlines would not continue to operate in the next three months, adding that until now, airlines have been subsidizing the base fare.
“We increase fare in reaction to the cost of aviation fuel, which is increasing daily without prior warning to airlines. We sell tickets at lower price but we airlift passengers at the new aviation fuel prices, which means we are incurring heavy losses. If we do not increase fares, many of us will not last three months. “We are batting with poor infrastructure, exchange rate depreciation, high price of aviation fuel and increase in the price of handing by aviation handling companies. If you go to market to buy to resell and find out that prices have suddenly gone up will you sell at the same old price? No! We are feeling the economic pinch together.
“We should put the blame where it should be and these are forex, aviation fuel, which is biggest reason for the hike,” the spokesman said. But reacting to the increased fares by airlines, the former CEO of Aero Contractors and former Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Capt Ado Sanusi, condemned the decision of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) to increase fares, saying that such decision was against free economy and against anti-trust laws.
“I am not against the increase in airfares in response to high cost of operation, increase in the price of aviation fuel, but AON cannot come out and fix prices of tickets. That is against the law and against free economy.
“Every airline should look at its own costs and decide the fares. When you fix fares, some airlines will be affected negatively and it could lead to them going under because airlines have different financial models and so should fix their own fares,” he said.
Another spokesman of one of the airlines, however, told THISDAY that AON did not fix fares for the airlines; rather, each airline recognising its operational challenges in terms of finance, decided to increase fares, disclosing that it was not every airline that pegged its base fare to N50, 000. Also, a top official of AON told THISDAY that he was not aware that the association fixed fares for airlines, stressing that airlines fixed the fares by themselves.
According to the operators, aviation fuel takes between 35 to 40 per cent of total cost of airlines and some of the stakeholders are concerned that some of the operators may be compelled to shut operations if the challenges in the sub-sector were no urgent intervention by government. About two weeks ago, the Chairman, United Nigeria Airlines (UNA), Dr. Obiora Okonkwo had raised the alarm that the price of aviation fuel rose by over 100 per cent in the last one year.
He had emphasised that the exchange rate had also depreciated from N340 to N570 to a dollar within the same period, stressing that it was pertinent for the government to look critically into the development of the industry in order to arrest collapse.
Nigeria's Azman Air Faces A Shortage Of Jet Fuel - SIMPLY FLYING
BY JAKE HARDIMAN
The issues forced the carrier to delay several flights yesterday.
5NHAI-DNAA-AzmanPhoto: Sm105 via Wikimedia Commons
Several Azman flights were subject to delays over the weekend when the airline ran into jet fuel shortage. The issues affected the Nigerian carrier's domestic services throughout Sunday. With fuel in short supply, its price has increased. This market fluctuation also looks set to result in a rise in airfares in Nigeria.
Several canceled services
The issues for Azman Air pertaining to the jet fuel shortages began yesterday morning, when the carrier announced on Facebook that its 09:05 service from Abuja to Lagos had been delayed. This service operates as flight ZQ2325. FlightRadar24.com data for this service is minimal, with its status listed as 'unknown.'
Nonetheless, what is known is that ZQ2325 was far from the last Azman Air flight to be affected by the fuel shortage yesterday. Indeed, the airline also listed a further six domestic services throughout the day that would be subjected to delays, impacting other destinations such as Kano and Maiduguri. The airline explained:
"Azman Air's Abuja to Lagos flight, scheduled for 9:05 AM [yesterday], was delayed due to the scarcity of Jet A1 fuel (...) We hereby crave the indulgence of all our esteemed passengers affected to kindly bear with us."
As is typical for a resource shortage, the lack of available jet fuel in Nigeria has caused the remaining reserves to go up in price. According to All Africa, the cost has risen as high as N429 ($1.03) per liter in certain parts of the country. Meanwhile, IATA notes that the worldwide average is $0.55 per liter (based on $105.30/barrel).
As well as a scarcity of jet fuel, airlines are also facing a shortage in the supply of US dollars. All Africa notes that this currency is crucial to Nigerian carriers' operations, as they use it to "carry out most of their activities." Passengers will also feel the impacts, with the increases being passed down in higher fares.
Indeed, the base fare for hour-long Nigerian domestic flights will more than double, increasing from N22,000 ($53) to N50,000 ($120) as of March 1st. Azman Air stated:
"The recent increase in ticket fares is never with the intention of hurting or extorting, but for us to stay afloat in the continuous provision of safe and reliable flight experience to our esteemed passengers. The review became necessary due to the high cost of jet A1 fuel, forex scarcity, inflation, increase in ground handling charges, cost of buying and importation of spare parts."
Azman Air in a nutshell
For those not familiar with the carrier, Azman Air has been operating services out of its hub at Nigeria's Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (KAN) since May 2014. It was initially founded four years earlier, back in 2010. Initially flying domestically, it has also operated international routes with a leased Airbus A330.
However, at present, Azman Air flies on a domestic-only basis, having ceased its use of the A330. According to data from ch-aviation.com, its present fleet consists of seven aircraft. This figure comprises two Boeing 737-300s, four 737-500s, and, perhaps most interestingly, a single ex-Virgin Atlantic Airbus A340-600.
Fuel scarcity: Private depots hike rates, more filling stations may sell above N180/litre - PUNCH
The cost of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, may hit or exceed N180/litre in most filling stations in coming weeks if nothing is done about a recent hike in its ex-depot price by private depot owners.
It was gathered that most private depot owners recently raised the cost of petrol from the approved N142-N145/litre price to between N162-N170/litre.
This, oil marketers said, had already made some filling stations owned by independent marketers to start dispensing petrol at N180/litre, above the approved and regulated pump price of N165/litre.
But the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, Nigeria’s sole importer of petrol, said it was not aware of the hike in price by private depot owners.
Also, the regulator of the sector, Nigeria Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority demanded independent marketers to make a formal complaint, while the oil dealers argued that they had already informed the agency.
The National Public Relations Officer, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chief Ukadike Chinedu, told our correspondent that although the number of filling stations in Lagos and Abuja that sold petrol above the regulated rate were few, many outlets in other states currently dispense the product at N170-N180/litre.
He said, “Petrol is being sold in private tank farms (depots) at N167 to N170/litre. In fact, a friend contacted me to say that some tank farm owners were selling at N180/litre in Port Harcourt.
“So I want to tell you that fuel will be available but it will be expensive in many more areas in the coming weeks if they (depot owners) continue like this.”
He explained that the non-supply of the products by the NNPC to the oil company’s inland depots had warranted the high cost of products at private tank farms.
“What is required is that the NNPC should supply these products to their inland depots to ensure that facilities such as Warri and Port Harcourt refineries and some depots have products so that marketers can take fuel at the approved N142-N145/litre price,” Ukadike said.
He added, “The National President of IPMAN, Debo Ahmed, has directed that all marketers should run 24 hours service and he appealed to security agencies to provide adequate security.
“So that is what we need now and I also want to let you know that the price of petrol in some filling stations is above N165/litre as approved by the government. And this is because they are not getting the product at the approved NNPC price.”
When told that the commodity was still dispensed at the approved rate of N165/litre in parts of Abuja and Lagos, the IPMAN spokesperson replied, “If you watch closely, it is mainly the major marketers and some mega filling stations.
“And this is because these major marketers, who are far less in number than independent marketers, particularly in other states outside the two areas you mentioned, source their products from the NNPC.
“But independent marketers source their products mostly from private tank farm owners and a few from the NNPC. But right now these private tank farm owners sell at about N170/litre.”
On why the private depots were selling above the regulated price, Ukadike stated that this was what the government should address.
“And when an independent marketer locks his filling station, they will say there is a product but independent marketers are refusing to buy so as to cause scarcity by hoarding products” he stated.
The oil marketer added, “If we buy PMS at N170litre, how much are we going to sell it in our filling stations? And tomorrow the authorities will come and lock up our stations and use police to arrest our pump attendants.
“Unfortunately, these things happen while the facts are there for all to see.”
It was gathered on Sunday that petrol sold for N250 per litre in some filling stations in Rivers State last week mainly because independent marketers purchased the commodity above the official depot price.
Also in Jos, Plateau State, it was learnt that the PMS price increased to between N175 and N200 per litre in some filling stations operated by independent marketers.
Reports from Bayelsa further confirmed the price increase, as it was gathered that a litre of fuel was sold for N170, N185, N195, N200, N215 and N250 at various filling stations operated by independent marketers.
Ukadike said the situation would persist unless the government called private depot owners to order.
He stressed that independent marketers would definitely run at a loss if they dispensed petrol at the official N165/litre rate after purchasing it at about N170/litre.
The manager of a filling station in Kubwa, a suburb in Abuja, confirmed that some private depots were dispensing above the rate approved by the government.
“Private depots are selling above the approved rate of N145/litre and if this continues, very soon petrol price will go above N180 even in Abuja because it is already like that in many states,” the independent marketer, who pleaded not to be named for fear of being victimised, stated.
The NNPC is the sole supplier of petrol into Nigeria for about four years running and it supplies the product to tank farms or depot owners, from where filling stations come to make purchases.
But when told the complaints of independent marketers against depot owners, the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, NNPC, Garba-Deen Muhammad, stated that he was unaware of the development.
“I’m not aware of that honestly,” Muhammad stated, as he maintained that the oil company had been bringing in products to ensure enough supply and that queues for petrol across the country were adequately cleared.
The NNPC recently stated that it was working hard to address the queues caused by the imports of adulterated petrol. It had announced that over 2.3 billion litres of PMS would arrive in the country before the end of February 2022.
This, it said, would restore sufficiency level above the national target of 30 days
It also stated that the oil firm had over one billion litres of petrol in stock, and the PMS being dispensed currently at various filling stations across the country was safe.
Also, when the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority was contacted on the concerns of independent marketers about the hike in PMS price by private depots, its spokesperson, Kimchi Apollo, said filling station owners should lodge their complaints formally with the NMDPRA.
He said, “If that was true they should escalate it to us. They should let us know. They should make it known to the authority. Ask them to escalate it to the authority so that we will know that such an issue is going on and then correct it.”
The NMDPRA is the regulatory agency for the downstream and midstream oil sector. It has the power to sanction erring depots and filling stations that dispense petrol above the approved rates.
But when told the response of the NMDPRA and asked if independent marketers had tabled their concern to the authority, the IPMAN PRO replied in the affirmative.
Ukadike said, “We have. This is because we have made it public that we are no longer buying this product at a government-stipulated rate. Rather we are buying it at between N162 and N170 per litre from private depots.
“Is it not for the authority to carry out its investigations and find out whether the issue we’ve raised is true or not? This is because if this is allowed to fester, the pump price of petrol will get to or above N180/litre.
“Do we need to carry placards or embark on strike? No! We want to remain peaceful in business and we don’t want Nigerians to suffer. If we say we are not going to buy, there will be fuel scarcity.”
He added, “Fuel scarcity, of course, will hit hard on the masses. Also, we have our facilities and tickets lying down, we need to buy products, sell and pay workers’ salaries. We need to maintain our facilities, pay rent both to government and others.”
The IPMAN PRO emphasised that the hike in depot price for PMS was the major reason why the commodity was being dispensed above the official N165/litre price in many fillings stations belonging to independent marketers in states.
“That is why you see different rates higher than the official price in filling stations in many states because there is no way you can buy at between N165 and N170/litre and the government will expect you to sell at N165/litre,” he stated.
Ukadike added, “Who will now bear the loss? This is why we are advocating that the government through the NNPC should send their products to their inland depots because there is no way the inland depots can inflate the price. But private tank farm owners will inflate the price.”
Asked what could be the reason why the NNPC often supply PMS to private tank farm owners, the IPMAN official said, “When you ask them that question, they will say it is because of pipeline vandalism.
“But who’s responsibility is it to protect these pipelines? Is it not for them to strengthen their systems? Why are they choosing to send their products to private tank farm owners rather than their own depots? Most of their inland depots have no product.”
An official at the NNPC said some private tank farms were easily accessible for smaller vessels to discharge PMS, but noted that it was the regulator’s duty to ensure that these depots complied with the approved ex-depot price to forestall a widespread hike in the pump price of petrol.
When contacted, the Executive Secretary, Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria, Olufemi Adewole, did not respond. A text message sent to him on the matter had yet to be replied to up till when this report was filed in.
‘Only 3.4m vehicles insured out of over 13m in Nigeria’ - THE NATION
Of the over 13 million vehicles in Nigeria, only about 3.4 million of them have genuine Third Party Motor insurance policies as at February 2022, The Nation has learnt. This represents a rise from the 2.94million policies as at April 26, 2021.
The Chairman, Nigerian Insurers Association (NIA), Ganiyu Musa, who made this known at a briefing in Lagos, said the 3.4 million vehicles were captured on the Nigeria Insurance Industry Database (NIID).
He further said 200,000 marine policies had been uploaded in the marine module in same period.
Musa, who is also the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Cornerstone Insurance Plc, noted that though the number of vehicles captured fel below expectations following the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions which resulted to lack of international trade.
He however assured that things were beginning to pick up gradually from the last quarter of last year.
He said: “The NIID solution is designed to help insurers and NIA monitor and authenticate all insurance policies issued in Nigeria toward reducing the incidence of fraudulent transactions and the loss of business by the insurance companies. The motor vehicle insurance policy module is the first part of the project that has commenced while other insurance cover types are expected to commence before the end of the year.”
The Consolidated Insurance Bill 2020, he said, was still receiving legislative attention in the National Assembly and the association is on top of developments on it. “We are optimistic that the Bill will be passed into law before long. We are happy to note that the Finance Act 2021 has been signed into law and this has resolved a major issue with regards to the definition of the components of minimum capital,” he added.
He noted that the association was engaging the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) to determine the next steps.
On marker development, he said the association would continue to complement the efforts of NAICOM in their campaign on domestication of compulsory insurance in the states.
FAAN orders AIB, Caverton, others to relocate - THE NATION
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has given the Accident Investigation Bureau – Nigeria (AIB-N) and other entities with facilities at the international wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos quit notice.
Other organisations that will be affected by this order include Caverton, Dominion, Evergreen Apple Nigeria and ExecuJet hangars.
Experts have, however, faulted the deadline.
The notice came barely a week after the National Assembly Joint Committee on Aviation, led by Senator Smart Adeyemi and Hon. Nnolim Nnaji Aviation, warned FAAN against demolishing the affected offices and private hangars at Lagos Airport, because it would cost the country billions of naira.
It was learnt that the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), the Federal Road Service Corps (FRSC) and the towing firms close to the AIB-N regional headquarters in Lagos were affected by the order.
Though FAAN confirmed the notice to the agencies with offices close to the airside, it said it did not attach a deadline to it.
FAAN stated that the agency would not compensate the affected organisations but that it would provide them land.
If FAAN carries out its threat, properties worth billions of Naira belonging to these entities would be affected.
For instance, AIB-N, has its regional headquarters that was the agency’s head office until the mid-2020 when the Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, gave it and other aviation agencies a marching order to move to Abuja office.
The facility houses its office complex, Command & Control Centre, office of investigators and Information Communication Technology (ICT) department.
Apart from the cost of the land, it was learnt that AIB-N’s facilities in Lagos regional office are worth over N5 billion.
Most of the facilities at the AIB-N’s office in Lagos were installed less than four years ago by Mr. Akin Olateru-led management team.
While FAAN has issued the eviction order, the affected organisations who are not comfortable that bitter about the development may be heading to court to challenge their eviction.
A source close to one of the two towing firms affected confirmed the notice and that the letter conveying the message was signed by the Managing Director of FAAN, Capt. Rabiu Yadudu.
The reason for wanting to evict AIB-N and other organisations, it was learnt, was to allow the Chinese contractors building the terminal at the international wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport to use the offices demolished as apron.
It would be recalled that FAAN had contended that the organisations doing businesses at that corridor were making it difficult for it to expand the new terminal still under construction.
But the organisations on their part had argued that they received valid and approved papers from the relevant authorities before constructing their offices at the present locations, wondering why FAAN is now asking them to vacate the same place they got approvals for.
They further argued that they were not the problem but that the challenge lied with the terminal that was not well-located.
The General Manager, Corporate Communications, FAAN, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, confirmed the development.
She explained that FAAN would give the affected organisations new land within the airport.
She added that the affected organisations were not given two weeks to relocate as being speculated.
“FAAN is relocating those offices that have been asked to move,” she added.
Local airlines struggle with depleted fleet, low market penetration - THE GUARDIAN
• Over 48 aircraft grounded, operators lease 12 to sustain local operation
• High maintenance cost, Jet A1, exchange rate, hobble industry growth
• Aero Contractors struggles with staff salary
• FG fails in pledges to deliver local maintenance organisation, leasing company six-year on
• It is time to save sector from collapse, say operators
Despite an appreciable surge in the number of new investors angling to float local airlines, the industry is much more in a precarious zone with operators struggling with depleted fleet capacity and low market penetration.
By total fleet capacity, the country parades over 100 assorted commercial airplanes out of which over 48 are grounded. That depletion earns the country less than five per cent coverage of its over 200 million local population, 10 per cent of West African market share and about two per cent of the African market, despite the largest population density.
While new start-ups and a rash of leased aircraft have surfaced lately, the burden of keeping up with routine maintenance programmes, spike in the cost of aviation fuel, and multiple charges remain an albatross on sustainable air transport.
Conspicuously missing too is the current administration’s promises to the sector, especially in the areas of aircraft leasing companies and Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities to meet local demands and defray huge capital flight.
Apparently unimpressed with the worsening state of affairs, stakeholders have warned that the sector risks collapse without an urgent intervention. They said, while investors and operators are braving the odds to place orders for new aircraft and lease capacity in the short-run, government should do its bit in creating an enabling and stable business-friendly environment that works for all.
Indeed, in local and continental aviation, Nigeria is clearly not living up to its aerial potential. With over 200 million people and an airport in almost all 36 states of the federation, the industry has only nine million local air traffic, yearly, – being one of the lowest population-to-air-travellers’ ratios on the continent.
Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Musa Nuhu, noted that the sector recorded growth in the number of new investors in 2021. Three new airlines (United Nigeria, Green Africa and Cally Air) did join existing seven carriers, while the apex regulatory body had 15 requests for Air Operator’s Certification (AOC) pending as at December.
But fleet capacity is yet to feel the boom. Air Peace airline has 34 aircraft in its fleet, to earn it the biggest airline in West Africa and sixth largest in Africa. Though it welcomed the fifth of its 13 brand new Embraer 195-E2 jets at the twilight of 2021, the airline has only 20 aircraft in operations at the moment, five of which were recently damp-leased Airbus 320s from Malta.
Arik Air ranks second in local industry capacity, with 37 aircraft before it came under receivership almost five years ago. It currently flies 11, at least two of which are on dry-lease programmes.
Aero Contractors parades eight-aircraft fleet, The Guardian learnt. Four are in operation. Of the four, two Airbus 320s are on wet-least, also known as ACMI.
Ibom Air, in three years of impressive performance has acquired seven aircraft, two of which are leased. Dana Air parades seven aircraft, out of which five are in operation. United Nigeria has five; one of them is on the ACMI programme. Azman also has six aircraft, of which four are in operation. The rough estimate of seven out of the 10 operating airlines showed 104 commercial aircraft in all, out of which 56 are active, 48 grounded and 12 on lease arrangement.
A recent survey by ATQ News platform showed a corresponding match between depleted fleet and flight delays. For instance, Air Peace with about 40 per cent of local market share delayed 55 per cent of its 17,861 operated flights in 2021. Arik delayed 57 per cent of its 9,024 flights; Dana Air, 55 per cent of 9,360 flights; Green Africa, 49 per cent of its 1,092 and Ibom Air, 27 per cent of 9,551 flights operated.
Chief Operating Officer (COO) of one of the airlines told The Guardian that the figures mirror the “dire” situation in the industry.
“No matter how well we try, we cannot give what we don’t have. All the airlines are struggling to keep the safety standard to survive. The challenges are just too enormous for any operator and regulators to pretend as if they are not there. We have the aircraft, but not the dollar requirements to pay for overseas repairs or spare parts. So, the aircraft stayed grounded and nobody seemed to care.
Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika. PHOTO: AFP
“You cannot blame the operator for not sourcing a $2 million single repair bill at N575/$ black-market rate, because he earns no such money from travellers. Rather, ask the government what they have done to avail FX at an official rate to airlines or what exactly has this government done to alleviate the plight of the aviation industry and improve the operating environment? None! The COVID-19 palliative budget for the operators, did we get it? Where is the MRO facility that they promised? Are we better off than we were seven or two years ago? No! And that is the problem,” he said.
Aero Contractors, the oldest commercial carrier in the country, currently under receivership, is now showing signs of distress with its inability to pay salaries.
Aggrieved workers complained that the “distress” was not unconnected with the leased Airbus 320 airplanes “to replace” Boeing737s. In the process, wage bills of top managers had allegedly ballooned, with attendant heavy debt burden on the carrier.
One of the workers noted that the leased airplanes were planned for northern route operations. “But when they arrived, the aircraft started competing with our Aero aircraft on our lucrative routes, collecting our passengers, revenue and remitting fares from only three seats of an aircraft of almost 200 capacity.
“Last December, they collected N35, 000 airfare per passenger and over 80, 000 passengers booked. Unfortunately, one of their (leased) aircraft had an issue and could not fly. They used Aero’s B737 to ferry passengers, made huge amounts and paid themselves (managers) while the workers were lamenting.”
A top official of the airline confirmed that the airline was indeed going through rough patches as a result of the economic downturn. He, however, denied that the airline has taken the regular workers for granted.
“Some of the workers have already been paid and others will also get theirs soon. There is hope that the airline will bounce back once our airplanes resume operations,” the official said.
Former president of the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), Isaac Balami, earlier told The Guardian that Nigerian carriers had been deploying more of medium range aircraft for short haul domestic flights, describing it as the bane of unaffordable cost of maintenance, business failure and high number of unserviceable aircraft.
Balami, an engineer and CEO of 7 Stars Global Hangar, said he was not surprised by the high toll of grounded aircraft, given that Nigeria accounts for 80 per cent of all aircraft in the West and Central African region, majority of which are the Boeing series.
“The problem with that is the flight-cycle and maintenance requirements. The aircraft engine and maintenance schedule are measured by the flight-cycle. Lagos-Abuja is less than one-hour, compared to other countries that use Boeing737 for three or four hour flight duration. I was on a Boeing jet engine from Abuja to Jos in just 21 minutes flight-cycle. And once you have reached your flight-cycle number, irrespective of the hours flown or passenger traffic, you must go for maintenance,” he said.
Balami said further that it was regrettable that the government has not deemed it fit to establish a Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility in Nigeria since 60 years of independence.
He said efforts by private sectors to establish the critical facility to support both airlines and the industry had been frustrated by government policies and refusal of banks to support the venture.
Chairman of United Nigeria Airways (UNA), Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, said aviation fuel was N190/litre when he began operations in February 2021. Unfortunately, the same quantity sells for an average of N400 today.
Director-General of the NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu
Okonkwo noted that fuel alone accounts for between 30 to 40 per cent of aviation revenue. “The FX on our day-one was N340/$. Now, it is N450/$, if it is available on the official window, otherwise we get it at N570/$ on the black-market. The first ticket we sold was N23, 000, but (base) ticket has not gone beyond N30, 000. It means those tickets are being subsidized by airlines just to meet up with the cost of operations.
“Yet, for every ticket you sell, you have five per cent in Ticket Sales Charge (TSC) going directly to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). From the ticket, you also pay the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and other charges. What remains?”
To save the carriers from the dire situation, Obiora said there is a need for special funding for the sector that heavily supports the economy.
“Operators are looking for solutions to many of these challenges. We can’t talk about safety without looking at rising costs and proper financing of operations. An aircraft on ground deserves urgent attention. We need the government’s support to achieve that,” Okonkwo said.
Aviation expert, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd) said operators too should begin to review their business plans to align with today’s realities.
Ojikutu warned that things are not going to be easy for any airline if each of Arik, Aero and Air Peace, for instance, have 60 per cent of their fleet flying.
“The competition will level all of them to where each belongs. So, every airline’s business plan should demonstrate the operational costs, which will include costs of fuel, navigational charges, landing and parking fees, handling charges, catering, staff salaries, and statutory charges of five per cent TSC, VAT and the FIRS Corporate Taxes.
“Any airline that begins complaining after commencing operation does not know what to look for and if you don’t know what you are looking for, you will never find it,” Ojikutu said.
Russian invasion of Ukraine will drive petrol prices to record high - THE TELEGRAPH
BY Lauren Almeida
The average price of fuel reached £1.49p per litre over the weekend but the RAC said that it expected the all-time high of £1.50p to be breached in the coming days.
Simon Williams, of the RAC, said: “Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine is already causing oil prices to rise and will undoubtedly send fuel prices inexorably higher towards the grim milestone of £1.50 a litre.
“This spells bad news for drivers in the UK struggling to afford to put fuel in their cars. With retailers quick to pass on any wholesale price rises they experience, we could sadly see the average price of unleaded hit £1.50 in the next few days and diesel approaching £1.54.”
At this level it would cost £82.50 to fill up a 55-litre family car. A full tank of diesel would costs £84.70.
Drivers should not expect relief at petrol pumps soon. The price of oil reached a seven-year high of $97 a barrel as investors feared Russia would tighten its supply of the commodity. Many analysts now expect that it will breach $100 in coming weeks.
Rising fuel costs will add further pressure to household budgets, as families battle the worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation. Inflation hit a 30-year high of 5.5pc in January, and the Bank of England expects it will peak at 7.25pc in April. Meanwhile, the energy regulator has scheduled a 54pc increase in the price cap and bills will rocket for millions of families.
Mr Williams added that large petrol retailers should endeavour to protect customers from rising costs, rather than prioritising their own margins.
He said: “We realise that smaller retailers who don’t buy fuel as frequently will be hit by higher wholesale costs but the biggest retailers who buy all the time shouldn’t currently be increasing their forecourt prices. We urge them to play fair with drivers at this difficult time.”
The fuel duty rate has been frozen since 2011 at 58p per litre, after climbing from 17.7p in 1989. The government also charges the standard rate VAT at 20pc on petrol.
Airlines continue operating flights between UK and Ukraine - P.A.MEDIA
Wizz Air has said it will continue to operate flights between the UK and Ukraine despite Russia sending troops into the east of the country.
The Hungarian airline connects Luton Airport with Kiev and Lviv.
It runs three return flights per week on both routes.
A spokeswoman said: “Wizz Air continues to closely monitor the situation in Ukraine.
“Currently, we have not made any changes to our schedule and all of our flights to/from Ukraine continue to operate as normal.
“All passengers with booked flights to and from Ukraine are advised to regularly check their mailboxes for further information about booked flights.”
Ryanair and Ukraine International Airlines also operate flights between the UK and Ukraine.
Neither airline has announced any changes to those schedules.
A number of airlines in other countries have suspended flights to and from Ukraine.
They include Air France, Germany’s Lufthansa, Dutch carrier KLM, and Scandinavian company SAS.
Latvian airline airBaltic has halted its overnight flights to and from Ukraine.