The Spokesperson for the Airline Operators of Nigeria and Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines, Obiora Okonkwo has said that with the increase in cost operations, an air ticket from Lagos to Abuja should cost N250 thousand. He said this in an Exclusive interview on AriseTv.
In his words,
- “If you think tickets are expensive, then you probably don’t appreciate the sacrifices made by local operators. If we have to charge the fares, the way the costs are increasing every day, we should be paying not less than N250,000 from Lagos to Abuja,”
Airlines should have a special window for Forex
Going further Prof. Okonkwo who doubles as the Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines highlighted the urgent need for local airlines to access foreign exchange through a designated window facilitated by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
He called upon the newly appointed Aviation Minister, Festus Keyamo, to collaborate with other governmental bodies to identify and rectify obstructive elements within the system, which exacerbate the existing challenges.
Addressing the foreign exchange predicament, Okonkwo stated,
- “You have naira and you can’t convert it to the dollar. So, the solution to this is for our minister to understand that we need a special window with the CBN to access foreign exchange.”
High cost of aviation fuel caused by speculation.
He expressed concern over the unjustifiably high cost of aviation fuel, attributing the excess charges to speculative practices. He called on the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to play its part in stabilizing the industry by curbing these practices.
He remarked thus,
- “There is no reason, no matter the international price of crude oil, that the aviation fuel should be delivered to the pump for more than N500. Everything you see on top of it is speculations and I am calling out on NNPC staff to set this country free.”
The aviation sector should be designated an essential sector.
Recognizing the significance of the aviation sector, Okonkwo advocated for its acknowledgement as an essential industry within Nigeria. He cautioned against any interference with the existing regulatory framework, stressing that stability and consistency were paramount.
- He remarked, “The government and new aviation minister have to recognize the aviation industry as one of the essential industries in the country. It is no more for the rich only but a means of transportation.”
New Minister should not tamper with existing regulation
Drawing attention to the industry’s unique challenges, Okonkwo highlighted the currency disparity that local operators grapple with. Earnings in naira must cover significant dollar-denominated expenses, making the industry particularly vulnerable to currency fluctuations.
In this context, he urged the minister not to tamper with the existing regulations and institutional structures.
- “The current minister should not interfere with the regulations. We had a very terrible past where the regulatory employees were given employment letters from the Federal Ministry of Aviation. That’s absurd and unacceptable. So, let the regulatory system remain. Also, look into the latest appointments that were made before the end of the last administration,” Okonkwo asserted.