Following disclosure by Hadi Sirika on Monday that the federal government had approved the sum of N5 billion bailout fund to help airline operators and other players in the sector cushion COVID-19 impact, the Senate has insisted that the amount be increased to record maximum impact.
According to the Senate, this will keep the airline operators in business and also prevent them from shortchanging customers.
Senator Smart Adeyemi, chairman, Senate Committee on Aviation, made the call at the opening of a three-day public hearing on the six executive Bills meant to rejig the operations of some civil aviation agencies in the country.
The public hearing, which was graced by retired experts, stakeholders in the Aviation sector and the general public, was declared opened by Ahmad Lawan, senate president, who was represented by Senator Ajayi Boroffice, deputy senate leader.
The Bills before the Senate for consideration seek to repeal and reenact laws establishing the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), while the sixth Bill is for the establishment of a new Safety Investigation Bureau, which will cover Aviation, Marine and Road transportation.
“I sincerely hope that at the end of this exercise, the new Bills when passed, will be widely acceptable, bring about operational improvements, increase efficiency, flexibility and harmonization of procedures within the Industry. In so doing, we would have set a standard for Acts that will stand the test of time.
“Let me take this unique opportunity to call on the Federal Government to explore the possibility of providing bailout funds for the Airline Operators.
“The outbreak of the COVID-19 virus is a global and ongoing pandemic and countries all over the world are providing bailout funds for airline operators.
“Certainly, the aviation industry was the most affected by this virus attack and therefore need all the support possible to resuscitate the Industry,” Adeyemi said.
He added that the bailout fund become imperative as it will mitigate the devastating effects of COVID-19 and also discourage operators from cutting corners as the consequences can only be better imagined than experienced.
Responding, Hadi Sirika, the aviation minister, revealed that the federal government would soon start the disbursement of a N5bn bailout fund already approved for the operators of the Aviation sector.
The Minister said the airline operators would get N4 billion while other businesses in the sector would be given N1 billion to cushion the effects of COVID-19 pandemic.
But, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Aviation, Senator Adeyemi, told Sirika that the sum of N4bn bailout fund earmarked for airline operators was inadequate given what was lost to the pandemic.
“Let’s look at the cost of spare parts for the airlines and duties that they perform. Though, we might argue that the business is a private one, but it is centred around safety. The N4billion approved for the airlines by the Federal Government is too little to make any impact on the operations of the airlines.
“If you want to keep the airlines in business and you don’t want them to start cutting corners, there is need to look at the airlines with a view to giving them substantive support. If they start cutting corners, that will be worse for the industry. We may not be professionals in the sector, but we know how some of the airlines outside the country operate.
“The role of aviation cannot the over-emphasised. Minister, you have a role to play to take the issues of the airline operators to the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
“I don’t know if the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is here, but, they too have a role to play to ensure safety in the sector,” Adeyemi said.