There Is Big Improvement In Nigeria Aviation Industry –Medview BossBusiness Thursday, May 29th, 2014
Managing Director, Medview Airlines, Alhaji Muneer Bankole, in this interview talk about how far the Nigeria aviation sector have gone in recent time but believes government needs to create enabling environment, reduce the payment of all taxes of agencies of government. KAYODE ADELOWOKAN, reports;
As a non aviation person one of the fears I have is the safety of our airspace. How safe is our airspace?
I fly domestic, no doubt about that. Aircrafts are meant to fly, aircraft have checks time table where you go for the line check, D check, main check and the heavy check. These are the checks, the ones you see flying when they attain certain hours they go for what we call the line checks, we call them the A1, the two As the four As and the eight A’s when you fly to certain hours, mandatorily you can consider the hours or the dates so you can go back for heavy checks when we call D-checks. Those things are there, for Nigeria there is no comparison it’s the same all over. The machines are made by human beings working in an environment that is conducive and there are schedules that guide you to go for maintaining these airplanes. They are mandatory and you have to carry them out. For us, we need to educate our people, so that those who have no knowledge of the business will just keep talking about it. We need to tell the world to give them the confidence.
So you mean Nigeria Airspace is safe?
More than safe. For the last two three years, we can tell ourselves how much we are saving by going to Abuja under 55 minutes. Unlike before, you take off from Lagos you are already in contact with Kano and Abuja in the sky. So we are there. There is a big improvement. That is a beautiful thing that has happened to this industry. It is quite okay, very safe.
Now, do you think Nigeria has grown to manufacture aircraft?
We have come close to it. There is something they do overseas, where you find Toyota after Dallas campuses they have close to about 17 countries, what they do there is that they assemble parts, they bring those things like a CKD and assemble them just like what motor companies are doing in Nigeria, most aircraft parts you see are from different places and they pick them from somewhere and couple them together and bring them back to life. So what we can do gradually provide an environment.
We have four, five major aircraft manufacturers, Boeing, Air Bus, Bombedier. So Nigerian government need to wake up to help the industry, give the best to us. We have paid so much for fuel and I have said that many times as an impediment to our operations because its on the high cost. It takes 40% of the operational cost, we have been paying money to agencies of the government, you pay for sky in your own country. While in Abuja, you pay money for over flyer, we pay to NAMA, FAAN, 5% to NCAA. We pay and pay and pay.
And you are not getting returns?
In a case where weather does not favour you occasionally, we burn fuel go and come back and there is nothing you can do. So we need to do a lot to get Nigerians know that the safest, the fastest and most durable to get to any point is by air. From Lagos to Abuja now by road you need between 12 and 14 hours, so you need to take a lot to go. Its full of challenges and we keep praying to God for the industry and to the government to do the best needful.
What do you think government needs to do?
They have to create enabling environment, reduce the payment of all taxes of agencies of government. Government need to fund these agencies by themselves, service providers or government regulatory being funded by government all over the world, it is no crime.
They provide those things to where capacity and capability performance of airlines. It is the government job. It is just like giving me education. It is the civic responsibility of a child of this nation, so which ever resources my father has paid taxes or dues, I need to have a basic education. So the same thing we create environment to encourage and improve our industry, like you have today, in the past, people work overnight in industries and factories but no more, you see people going home by midnight, those are the people on afternoon shift and people going not at 11pm to do night and come back early morning. That enhances our productivity and performance and creates more jobs. Those industries are gone, they are now in neighboring countries, you can bring them again to our countries, and most of these ‘Adire’ and ‘Ankara’ are coming from nowhere than Ghana or neighboring countries. So I feel that we need to move more and improve this economy so that government will encourage industry players that want to invest.
In terms of local factor, how has it been?
Averagely, it is beautiful, the standard is 80, 90 not over exaggerate the number.
As an operator, AOC have been given to two airlines to operate, do you see their coming as a threat?
No, they are welcome. The beauty of it is that the industry underutilized. I told you we are 170million people, so how many airlines are we talking of now. Those are still part of the things we are saying, we have no doubt, it depends on the quality of your service delivery to your client, and all you need to do is to enhance your safety performance records. We need more to come out, we are still very far away. They are all our friends and we need to improve.
Can you tell us about Medview airline?
Right now Medview airline is a domestic, regional and international airline. Before that, I had a travelling agency and it started after the liquidation of the Nigeria Airways. I set up a travelling agency at No 19 Obafemi Awolowo Way. It is still a dream. I was a consultant for Lagos State government for over ten years. I run a pilgrimage for some states like Kwara and some Northern States as well. I became the general sales agent of Saudi airline cargo flights, a good market for the country, it brought job opportunities for the country. From there, we started domestic operations running to two years, a smooth one. We got designated into the following countries, Accra, Dakar, Libreville, Tel Aviv, Jedda, Dubai and Singapore. As I am talking to you, we have got the licenses to operate in many countries. Accra, very soon; Dubai, very close; and Jeddah, coming close too. So, that is on the business of Medview, we give thanks to almighty God that within a short space, we are one of the major Hajj careers, we came first in the last exercise. We have so far operated seven and a half years on pilgrimage. We give glory to God, we are grateful that we have a committed workforce. We have pilots who have been in the sky for close to one 15,000 hours and above. So what it means is that those who have seen the sky flying for so long. We have engineers who have gone for so many trainings, they are well-grounded, they are good and these are the basis for our success today. I believe government has a lot to offer, creating enabling environment. We have a population of over 170 million people; we can only count six airlines operating with additional two that are coming on board that first got their AOC. We have limited aircraft, we don’t have MRO facilities, we have been agitating for so many things to support the industry by partnering with manufacturers outside. The government in turn provides some of the resources in trading in bringing the aircraft manufacturers to the door step of Nigeria. We have clean new airplanes, we will continue to fly and make the sky safer, faster and durable.
Is it true that Medview is partnering Akure airport in terms of cargo?
No, it is not true. Nothing for now we are the major player in cargo, we brought Saudi Arabi cargo airline into this country and we are happy to say they run 30 flights monthly making over 6.3million tones and annually 46million tones. That is a lot to the economy in creating jobs. The only thing we don’t see here is to encourage our local productivity, our own raw materials how it gets to the outside world. So we are seen as an import nation, we want to see much of our own products to be exported outside because that is where we make more money than just receiving.
It is on record that Emirates airlines come into the country with full load cargo but go home empty. Yes, confirmed. Nothing they come in daily.
Talking about assembling aircraft in Nigeria, when corporate do you think Nigeria can readily go into?
That is one thing we have said, the government as a nation has a duty to partner with any country where aircraft are being manufactured. It is a win win situation, like Boeing, they are base in Seattle, Washington. American government has a stake in the industry here you can talk to them. Air Bus is in Touluse, France you have good relationship with the government.
We have CRJ in Canada, there is nothing stopping us to talk to them and see what we can put together. We need to improve on our security situation; we need to show the world that we are getting more serious. We are blessed in nature. It has been raining here but like Saudi Arabia we pray for rain to get water. I feel happy when I see the water coming down. Unlike Saudi where they cry to the Lord, ‘give us rain’ and here we are having it in abundance. Those are the beauty of our country. We have so many airports here in some countries you will find one or two and we are remodeling 22. That is fantastic and so let make the 22 airports to work, create jobs where everybody will work. That’s what we need. They should complement the job of the former minister by opening up the airports and a lot of things will come back to live.
In what way do you open up the airports?
They have to open up airports by looking at the resources available at those environments. I have been to Kebbi and they just had a standard airport which we are planning to go.
They have a lot of food items, watermelon, onions in abundance and these are things for export. A lot of countries are looking for onions, onion is an antibiotic and there is no way you cannot use it for anything. So those who work in Sokoto airport, Kebbi, Yola, we fly daily into Yola. There is an airport project that was being put in place by the Taraba government as well. So there are a lot of activities that we need to encourage. So the issue of security will come to barest minimum, when you have something doing, what we are seeing here is an idle hand becomes the devils workshop. People have no job, you can see the experience of what happened at the stadium, that is the testimony to the whole world to show that we have young guys who are coming up with nothing in their hands, very sad.
How soon do we expect Medview airline in the US and UK?
We are already outside. We are in seven countries. Our team is in Dubai, Accra, Jedda. Your government designate you communicate through the embassy to the countries you have been assigned to.
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