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Airline, others want special funding window for operators

Worried by some of the difficulties faced by airlines in the country, the Chairman, of United Nigeria Airlines (UNA) Prof. Obiora Okonkwo has urged the Federal Government to leave a legacy by providing a “Special Funding “window for the aviation sector operators.

Okonkwo made the call in Abuja on Thursday while speaking at a retreat organized by the management of United Nigeria Airlines to mark its two-year operation in the aviation industry.

The retreat, which has “Positioning United Nigeria for Value Creation and Retention” as its theme, was organized for the company’s management staff.

United Nigeria Chairman, Prof. Obiorah Okonkwo

Okonkwo said the call for the provision of a window of special funding for operators in aviation became necessary given its essential duty nature and its growing contribution to the Nigerian Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

“We are just asking for a special funding window that should be of a single digit and that is easily accessible, not necessarily on paper, but it is not accessible.

“We still believe that this government has done much for the aviation industry, though more needs to be done. We think that the more considerable legacy this government will leave for the aviation industry is ensuring that the operators survive.

“No operator should go under; rather, let there be new operators in the aviation business.”

He said the indigenous airline operators have been very patriotic and have contributed immensely to the growth of the nation’s GDP.

“We are very patriotic Nigerians, who have contributed so much to the nation’s GDP, giving employment; it is a sector that I advise this government and the incoming government to take very seriously.

“Because, if properly harnessed, it will be a great source of foreign exchange for the country, especially if the local operators should be empowered; this industry, we believe, remains a critical and essential industry that should be treated as such.

“This industry can not survive further at the regular commercial rates. We know that there are privileges given to sectors like agriculture and others. Aviation should also be considered.”

Okonkwo said that the United Airlines management was committed to improving its performance, despite the challenges experienced in the past year.

The Chief Operating Officer and Executive Director of the airline, Mr Osita Okonkwo, said the company’s strategy, going forward, was to continue on its growth part.

He said that despite challenges, the company survived, saying that it was grateful to God, the travelling public, and the regulators that have kept fate with the company.

He said the company in 2023 and beyond would continue to excel and improve its service to the travelling public and customers, focused on its equipment to ensure its fleet was up to date.

According to him, the company has a massive expansion programme in the fleet area in numbers and aircraft.

“We have started already with A 320, which is already flying. More will join the fleet,

“We are expanding our destinations; we have the objective of having a footprint in every airport in Nigeria; we are about to start Jos and Benin, and other towns in the North-East and North-West will follow.

“We are going outside Nigeria. We are moving regionally, going through the regulatory process, and getting our airline carriers’ permits.

“We have gotten designations to a number of countries, which will be announced soon,” he said.

Director of, Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies (CIAPS), Prof. Anthony Kila, has called for the creation of a special bank dedicated to the funding of aviation infrastructure and for the carriers, which are going through turbulent times.

At the retreat

Other experts have also advocated for a special funding window for the aviation industry in Nigeria.

“With over 20 years in the industry, I can knowledgeably confirm that luckily, aviation is not a pauper’s business. Hence, finding depositors and shareholders will not be an insurmountable problem for capable promoters, but political will is needed. In the spirit of rethinking and resting aviation, operators need to go beyond flying or selling and distributing tickets.

“it is time to represent their challenges as rewarding opportunities to capable innovators, inventors, and investors”.

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