Airline travelers in Abuja, Nigeria’s federal capital, were grounded all day yesterday owing to the shortage of aviation fuel.
The Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Engr. Saleh Dunoma, confirmed the desperate situation, saying it has led to the overstretching of the facilities of his agency.
Mr. Saleh was speaking today during a visit by the Senate Committee on Aviation led by Deputy committee chairman Ibn Na’Alla, which was undertaking an oversight visit to aviation agencies in the country.
Describing a situation that seems to be growing rapidly worse, Mr. Saleh drew attention to yesterday, when the airlines could not airlift their passengers out of the Abuja Airport.
“I was at Abuja Airport from morning till evening,” he stated. “I couldn’t secure a flight to come to Lagos. The facilities were overstretched and you could see the tension on the faces of air travelers.”
Senator Na’Alla attributed the scarcity to a cartel, saying it has hijacked the oil sector and made it extremely difficult for the government to get Jet A1 fuel refined in the country.
He recommended that the government unbundle the entire system and deal decisively with the cartel which, he said, has continued to put the industry in a deplorable condition.
He stressed that the inability of the country to refine the fuel in the country works to the detriment of the airlines, in a sector where one litre of aviation fuel is sold at between N220 and N240 per litre, depending on the airport and the volume of the purchase.
He debunked the claim by the major oil marketers that the crisis in the Niger Delta Area and the nation’s poor exchange rate were responsible for the scarcity of the product on the local scene, arguing that despite the on-going war in Southern Sudan, fuel is still available in that country.
The Senator noted that in most parts of the world, the price of aviation fuel has dropped significantly in the past two years, and expressed regret that the reverse is the case in Nigeria where the price has continued to skyrocket.
Expatiating on his proposal to unbundle the current system, he said: “If anybody doesn’t want to provide fuel for Nigerian airlines, they should leave the sector for those who are ready to do so. At times, they lie about the poor exchange rate of the naira against major currencies. We must be sincere with ourselves and do the right thing. Those peculiarities are Nigerian and should be tackled once and for all. This is unfair, unjust and should not be taken lightly by any government.”
It would be recalled that recently, the Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) also indicted the cartel for the scarcity of Jet A1 fuel.
The President of ATSSSAN, Comrade Benjamin Okewu, called on the government to build refineries dedicated to the processing of the product, stressing that aviation has continued to play a vital role in driving the economy.