September 23, 2022

FG pledges to fight airline forex trap – Minister

The Federal Government said on Monday that it was working to resolve outstanding issues over foreign currency belonging to international airlines currently trapped in Nigeria.

Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed revealed this at the new terminal at Murtala Muhammad International Airport in Lagos on Monday, while inspecting the facilities.

Mohammed also said that the recently completed Lagos Airport Terminal 2 has the capacity to handle 14 million passengers a year.

The Minister, his entourage and journalists were ushered through the new airport terminal by the Chief Executive of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Captain Rabiu Yadudu.

Speaking on the concerns of foreign airlines operating in Nigeria, Mohammed said, “On the funds trapped, I can tell you that the relevant authorities are working hard on this issue.”

The minister also said that the new international terminal was not built to replace the MMIA terminal, but to complement it.

He said: ‘That’s why we were told you can check in at one terminal and board at the other, so there’s a handshake between the two terminals. It was the first terminal added to the original terminal since it was built approximately 30 years ago.

“The Terminal Two project began in 2013 and was completed by the current administration in 2022 under a bilateral agreement with the People’s Republic of China. No administration in the history of Nigeria has done so much, especially at a time of resource scarcity.

Mohammed also disclosed that more than 10,000 direct and indirect employment opportunities have been created in the new terminal.

He said the edifice, replicated at airports in Abuja, Port-Harcourt, Enugu and Kano, was a testament to the achievements of the Federal Government in infrastructure development.

Speaking about the facilities and amenities of the terminal, the Minister said: “I must admit that it was an exhilarating experience comparable to what happens anywhere in the world.

“On the air bridge ramp and the interface, one of the things the terminal manager told us is that not only is this airport used, but you can actually board your flights and check in here. You can arrive in one terminal and collect your luggage in another terminal, which solved the interface problem between the two terminals.

“I was here 40 years ago when the first terminal opened. There is a time between the inauguration of an airport and the moment when the airport becomes operational. You know that aviation forgives no mistakes.

He added: “So we have to test and be extremely certain that each piece of equipment is working optimally. The beauty of it all is that this airport has become operational. You can come here and continue to different parts of the world. When the old airport was inaugurated, it took some time to become operational.

“The new international terminal is not intended to replace the old one but to complement it. It is gradually, and very soon this airport will be very busy. You can see that the terminals are not only used by airlines. We have restaurants, banks, exchange operators, etc. and you have to screen people again and again before it becomes operational.

The new terminal has 60 check-in counters, seven passenger boarding bridges, five baggage claim belts, 16 departure counters and 28 arrival counters. It includes eight security checkpoints, an automated security control room with CCTV and an eye lie detector.

Mohammed said that the issue of maintenance until the cleaning of the airport has been taken care of.

“At first some people said we should outsource the maintenance of the airport to local companies, but I said what is important is safety and security,” he said. declared.

He added: “Gradually, when we entrust these maintenances to competent people who will also be obliged within a certain period to transfer the technology to local companies. To date, the best operators in the world take care of the maintenance of this airport.

Speaking on the attitude of investors in the aviation industry, the managing director of FAAN said that most people do not want to invest in the sector.

Yadudu said, “Investors don’t want to invest in the aviation sector. Moreover, the problem of FAAN non-compliance with agreements is not true. An example is FAAN has millions of agreements across Nigeria over the years.

“We may have problems with one or two, so it will be very unfair to define FAAN by only one or two agreements. Second, I make deals, there may be disagreements and when that happens issues can be professionally resolved.

“If someone has a problem with an agreement with FAAN and you have to go to the media, then go to the media with facts. Don’t start with a slogan. Resolution means you go to court and come to FAAN. If you must follow the media, then follow the facts, not the slogan.

Yadudu said media reports that the FAAN had raised landing and parking costs across Nigeria were wrong and misleading as the authority had not raised such fees since 2002 for international operators.

“Domestic landing and parking fees were last reviewed by FAAN in 2012 when tickets were sold for N6,000 and now they are sold for much more. There are more than enough reasons for the FAAN to increase the fees, but it is not happening,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mohammed raised concerns over the rising price of aviation fuel, popularly referred to as JetA1, and its negative impact on the sector in Nigeria and other parts of the world.

He said, “The truth is that we are not refining JetA1 in Nigeria. This problem is global and not specific to Nigeria. However, some local conditions in Nigeria have made it worse than other countries.

“For the international price, the dollar price of JetA1 has increased and at the same time the naira is devalued and that is the double trouble for Nigeria. That is why the fuel is very expensive. The cost of fuel has become 60% of the operating cost of Nigerian airlines, so almost all the revenue they make goes to buying JetA1.

He added: “It is not easy to manage the import of JetA1. The trucks that will pick it up and move it to different airports are quite an expensive undertaking and require high level handling to prevent contaminated fuel from getting on the plane.

“We hope that when refineries start producing JetA1, we know there will be availability.”

Mohammed also said that the loan taken out to launch the new terminal project is not the problem, but the fact that it is being put to good use for a good purpose.

He said: “It’s not really taking the money that’s the problem, it’s what we do with the money. When loans are used and invested in infrastructure like this, it means the loans are put to good use.

“The major problem is that the tax to GDP ratio is so low because most Nigerians don’t pay taxes so I want to call on Nigerians to help the government pay their taxes then there will be deficit reduction that we know. ”