Nigerian airline operators have issued a notice to the effect that from Monday, May 9, that is today, they will shut down their operations due to the high cost of aviation fuel now selling at N700 per liter.
A statement issued and signed by all the airline operators at the weekend advised the traveling public who intend to fly to make alternative arrangements to avoid being stranded at the country’s airports.
According to the operators, over time, aviation fuel price (JetA1) has risen from N190 per liter to N700 currently. No airline in the world can absorb that kind of sudden shock from such an astronomical rise over a short period. While aviation fuel worldwide is said to cost about 40 per cent of an airline’s operating cost, the present hike has shut up Nigeria’s operating cost to about 95 per cent.
In the face of this, they said airlines have engaged the Federal Government, the National Assembly, NNPC, and Oil Marketers with the view to bringing the cost of JetA1 down which has currently put the unit cost per seat for a one hour flight in Nigeria today at an average of N120,000. The latter cannot be fully passed to passengers who are already experiencing a lot of difficulties.
In the considered opinion of this newspaper, the government should do all within its power to stop the shutdown of the aviation sector as this will definitely have a multiplier effect on Nigerians and global travelers not to mention the economy as well as the perception of the country internationally.
We recall that the airlines have, recently, been lamenting the high cost of aviation fuel and its negative effect on air transportation in the country. Apparently, in our view, not enough was done by the authorities to assuage their concerns , an indifferent disposition that is threatening to bring about a crisis situation.
Similarly, media houses in the country have also been lamenting that they may shut down operations because of the high cost of diesel. This is, indeed, a perilous time for business operators in the country which , in our opinion, is clearly unhelpful for an economy that is barely struggling.
On his part, the minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika has urged the aviation unions to give him time to explore means of resolving the challenge.
He, however, pointed out that, unfortunately, the issue of fuel supply is not within the purview of the Ministry and so the much he can do in the present circumstance, is to engage with agencies, institutions and individuals in position to provide succor to the airlines. This is already being done by the relevant team led by him.
It is instructive to note that Oil marketers under the aegis of the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), had attributed the recent surge in Automotive Gas Oil (AGO), otherwise known as diesel and Jet A1 (Aviation fuel) to the difficulty in accessing foreign exchange and the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.
Executive Secretary of MOMAN, Clement Isong, had said that the war in Ukraine has led to an increase in global crude oil prices and all its derivatives, including diesel and aviation fuel.
Also, some experts have said the continuous importation of aviation fuel coupled with the inability of airline operators to have easy access to foreign exchange and airport taxes among others have been attributed to the expensive price of the product in Nigeria. Other reasons include handling equipment like refuellers, hydrant dispensers/servicers, and filtration systems.
In our opinion, for a country that is the largest oil producer in Africa and 7th in the world, this is totally embarrassing if not out rightly shameful.
Again, it may not be out of place to want to know why the nation exports crude oil and gets only premium motor spirit ( PMS) in return. What happened to the other derivates from crude oil like aviation fuel and the like?
What is going on brings to the fore the arguments on the state of our refineries and the need to take a decision on them.
Indeed, if our refineries are working, the war between Russia and Ukraine will not be an excuse for the unavailability of aviation fuel in the country.
As we previously stated on this page, more licenses should be granted for the operation of modular refineries in the country. Just like we have modular refineries for PMS, others should be established for aviation fuel to take care of local consumption.
In view of the foregoing ,we call on the government to ensure easy access to forex especially for aviation fuel importers which is one of the major reasons for the hike.