The scarcity of foreign exchange, which is already taking a toll on the activities of airlines operating in the country, particularly the foreign firms will soon be a thing of the past as the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, is making frantic efforts to liaise with the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, on the issue.
Sirika spoke yesterday in Abuja during a meeting with Airline Operators Association of Nigeria (AOAN) where he disclosed that he is liaising with Emefiele to fashion out a way towards making foreign exchange accessible to both foreign and local airline operators.
According to him: “I'm not aware that there is any disparity between domestic and foreign airline operators as regards accessing foreign exchange and I can assure you that this would not happen under our watch because we have primary purpose of promoting and sustaining businesses in Nigeria, which would, in turn, attract more investors.
“I have been to CBN to resolve forex matter, and I would not stop. I have put a call across to the Governor of CBN, and I would ensure that both domestic and foreign airline operators have access to forex as against the rumoured disparity in terms of access.
"No matter how bad the forex situation is, I would tidy the way and ensure that things are to the advantage of the airline operators because you must be able to access hard currency to remain in business."
However, the minister explained that he cannot assure the availability of the aviation fuel based on the pricing mechanism.
“I cannot regulate the price of aviation fuel that has risen from N115 to N150 because I am not in charge of controlling the price of fuel, but I can assure you that we are committed to ensuring that we begin the production of aviation fuel, and we will start with Port Harcourt."
Meanwhile, the Chairman of AOAN, Captain Nogie Meggison, urged the minister to work towards making aviation industry attractive and conducive for operations by addressing challenges of access to foreign exchange, upgrading of airports, 24 hours operations, VAT waiver and better delivery of service by FAAN, NAMA, and NCAA.
Meggison emphasised that if the challenges are not properly handled, aviation industry would face more crises that would compel operators to stop business in the coming months.
He added that if the challenges are addressed, however, the aviation sector has the capacity of contributing 40 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as against the current 0.4 per cent.
“If the government policies are properly planned and implemented, aviation sector should be able to create 10,000 direct jobs and 100,000 indirect jobs between now and 2019."