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Nigeria – Aviation Woes

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Airports close and airlines suspend flights as the aviation sector struggles in a challenging environment.

On December 21st passengers across the country were left stranded after Arik Air, the largest airline in the country, suspended services due to action by unions, including the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), the Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE).

The protests related to arrears in salaries amounting around seven months and the perceived anti-labour direction of policymaking. The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) brokered a meeting with Arik Air meeting the following day in which strike action was shelved, reported This Day.

Additional capacity was allocated afterwards from both Lagos and Abuja to destinations such as Enugu, Asaba, Owerri, Port Harcourt, Benin, Warri, Uyo, Yola and others to enable many of the Arik customers to get to their destinations.

Some of the placards placed around Arik counters read: ‘ARIK owes staff seven months salaries, defaults in taxes and other statutory deductions, criminalises trade unionism and union membership.”

Other airlines such as Air Peace, First Nation, Med-View, Dana Air, Overland and Azman were unable to take the spillover from Arik due to low capacity; according to Lagos-based the Guardian there was a 100% hike in ticket fares followed the strike action as passengers scrambled for available seats.

In Lagos, outside the Arik Headquarters, company officials from the Nigerian Lagos Congress (NLC) and the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) barricaded the main entrance, causing traffic problems on the airports access road.

There were reports later on January 6th that aggrieved passengers had attacked staff at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, as a number of flights were again rescheduled and some cancelled, reported Daily Trust.

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CC – 2014

It is reported that Arik Air owes in the region of Naira (N) 13bn to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and N6bn to the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA). The airline is also reportedly indebted to fuel supplies and ground handlers.

The Spokesman for Arik Air, Banji Ola, in his response to the allegations said the organisation was “disappointed” by the actions of the unions to “ambush and disrupt the operations.”

Meanwhile, the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja is to close for six weeks from February to March 2017 for repairs, which will involve almost total reconstruction of the badly damaged runway. The full construction works are expected to take six months, but the middle section of runway will be unusable for 6 weeks, reported the Premium Times.

President Muhammadu Buhari reportedly commenced the work through an emergency procurement procedure, due to the centrality of Abuja to the country. Passengers have been directed to use Kaduna airport as an alternative during this period.

Passengers will travel in bus shuttles, guarded by security provided by the government; the stretch of road from Kaduna airport to Abuja has seen a number of kidnapping incidents over the last few years.

A number of foreign airlines, however, have considered suspending services after the decision to close the Abuja airport, as the alternative in Kaduna was deemed unsafe for foreigners. However, Minister for Aviation Hadi Sirika said that Kaduna was preferable to alternatives such as Ilorin or Minna as it was able to cater for larger aircraft. Sirikia assured that the safety of passengers would be the top priority.

Additionally the oldest domestic carrier in the country, Aero Contractors, has resumed operations after a suspension of four months, according to a report from the Daily Trust. Operations started again on December 23rd with flights to Lagos, Port Harcourt and Warri.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin today:

NIGERIA: Darker Days
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21418B–21420A

AIRPORTS AND SERVICES: Nigeria
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21432A–21433C

NIGERIA: Recession and ‘Record’ Low Foreign Investment
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 8, Pp. 21384C–21386C

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