The immediate past managing director of Skyway Aviation Handling Company Limited, Dr. Oluropo Owolabi has called on the aviation regulatory body in Nigeria, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority NCAA to approve a uniform tariff for ground handling companies with an allowance of 5 per cent for each company to play with if they wanted to.
He urged the NCAA to intervene on the issue of ground handling tariff charges among the foreign airlines operating into the country to arrest capital flight.
Owolabi made the call over the weekend while speaking with journalists shortly before his glorious exit as the Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria’s famous ground handling company with best warehousing in Africa and beyond.
Owolabi lamented that the foreign airlines operating into Nigerian airports milk the nation dry by charging exorbitant fares but pay peanuts as ground handling tariff.
He noted that Nigerian airlines operating foreign services pay through their noses to get similar services in foreign airports.
The outgoing CEO said this was so because of the issue of disagreement or lack of trust over the tariff charge between the two major ground handling companies operating in the country.
“How long would an investor wait to recoup such money and then we have these airlines that are not ready to allow you increase the tariff. I am appealing to NCAA to look into issue of both SAHCOL and NAHCO on the issue of tariff. While foreign airlines milk Nigeria dry on tariff, Nigerian airlines which operate to foreign countries, pay through their noses. This is because the foreign airlines are playing upon the issue of little disagreement or distrust between the two major ground handling companies which is not supposed to be,” he said
Owolabi said the problem started when the ministry of transport relinquished the role of tariff fixing to the regulatory body. He observed that what used to obtain was having a uniform rate for the ground handlers and give them five percent allowance to play with.
Owolabi lamented the present situation where NCAA approves different tariff for ground handlers at the same time. According to him, the foreign airlines have taken advantage of the regulatory lapse to exploit the nation’s economy at a gross.
According to him: “We have made a lot of moves to allow us to sit down and iron out and solve these problems, but it is yet to be sorted out even as at last time. I see no reason why NCAA should approve for NACHO a tariff separately. It is a tripartite agreement. I expected NCAA to call us together. By and large, if you look at it, is the foreign exchange we are losing.
“Tickets fares are raised every time by the foreign airlines yet they don’t want you to increase your tariff. If you try to do so they threaten that they would go to other handler. And before you know what it is, they are taken away from you. That is not fair enough. We need to be our brother’s keeper. The issue of tariff was handled by the ministry before it was handled over to NCAA. What NCAA should do now is to approve a uniform tariff for the ground handling companies with an allowance of 5 per cent for each company to play with if they wanted to. This is what is done all over the world. T think they really have to look into this issue and see what to do,” he explained.
On how foreign airlines could work with the domestic operators in a symbiotic environment for the growth of the industry, Owolabi said: “My take is that foreign carriers need the local carriers to be able to have some feeders from the inner parts of the country more so that our roads are not highly rated for safety”.
Commenting on more states having airports, Owolabi said though he is not against the move, but harped on standard.
In his words: “While I am not against any state building airport because they are looking at trade and opportunity to open up their economies to investors and investments. They must look into what type of aircraft that would operate into that airport, when you travelled to airports around the world you see Boeing 737, you are also going to see propeller aircraft with 10 to 18 seating capacity that are very new and healthy that would take you to places . It is the way we are doing our agreement between the local operators and the foreign carriers. They are not been too serious in some of the things they do. I don’t see why two local operators cannot merge to become stronger.
“There is no way they can fight these foreign carriers who operate from foreign arena with stronger currency while your own currency continues to fluctuate every day. How do you breakeven when you have all the checks that have to be carried out in foreign countries spending dollars and how much are you paid as fares. The foreign airlines are paying us peanuts,” Owolabi lamented.
Speaking on the problems in the aviation industry in Nigeria, Owolabi said: “In aviation we have too many problems that need surgical operations that needed to be sorted out one after the other. We have the problem of FAAN the problems of NCAA not allowed to function on its own as should to be, if they are not allowed to do that it would hinder the system which would not augur well for the country.
“Up till now we have not gotten any help yet I believe government is sincerely concerned about safety, improvement, investment etc. To have these met; they need to allow ground handlers to have waivers for their equipment which are used on the tarmac. These equipment are meant for the save handling of the aircraft. This is why many foreign airlines are hesitant to bring their new aircraft around until they are sure of the equipment you are using for them. Variably, giving us this zero allowance on the equipment and spare parts, would go a long way. Rather than allow us to pay through our nose.
“We are really paying through our noses. I have never seen it in any part of the world where tariff is upside down as being down by Nigeria Customs Services. Asking us to pay N60million for ordinary push back when are we going to recoup the money. How long would an investor wait to recoup such money and then we have these airlines who are not ready to allow you increase the tariff”.
On his final message to the industry which he served meritoriously, he said: “We have come a long way, we would continue to be together, aviation is a small village; where we would continue to be our brothers’ keepers and being together. Whatever we explained or tried to explain does not mean we are attacking an individual or group of individuals, we are just trying to express our views which may differ, We must continue appreciate ourselves and listen to other peoples opinion. It is to make the industry work.”