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Aviation: Stakeholders Lament Lack of MRO In Nigeria

by timenews
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…as Nigeria loses over N25bn on capital flight over aircraft maintenance annually

Aviation stakeholders have lamented the absence of Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) facility in the Country six years after the administration of Sen. Hadi Sirika as the Minister of Aviation.

Regrettably, the Minister had made the establishment of an MRO facility in Nigeria one of his six-point agenda, six years down the line this all-important facility that would relieve the airlines of maintenance outside the Country and also curb capital flight is yet to be given any form of attention by the government.

Analysts in the Industry noted that Nigeria not having an MRO cuts down on the capacity of domestic carriers as most of them do not have the financial muscle to maintain their aircraft in foreign exchange outside the shores of the Country.

Suffice it to say that Nigeria loses not less than $300 million in capital flight owing to major maintenance of airlines’ fleet in foreign countries.

To carry out a comprehensive C-check on an aircraft costs between $1 million to $2 million (N470 million to N940 million), depending on the scope of work.

Investigation revealed that Nigerian airlines spend about N23 billion to N25 billion annually on aircraft maintenance

It has been six years the Ministry of Aviation promised to establish an MRO, but nothing is on ground to show the implementation of such.

At least, 70 aircraft are flown by eight scheduled operators in the Country at the moment amounting to a huge amount of capital flight in maintenance cost, even with the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) imposing a calendar limit for a C- Check at every 18 months.

Engr. Lookman Animashaun of Ibom Air, in his view said Nigeria does not have an MRO now because we are not serious about having it.

He said: “Most of the things they are doing is politics and they are telling people what they want to hear at a particular time.

“Honestly, I must tell you that we are playing to the gallery. If truly we are serious as a Nation, we should have gotten an MRO now.

“We should have built on what we had in Nigeria Airways then, rather than liquidating it; don’t let us talk about the liquidation of Nigeria Airways anymore. That has passed.

“But, I must tell you that without sustainable MRO in the Country, the Industry will continue to experience capital flight and that is what we are experiencing now, which is the moment the aircraft is due for heavy maintenance, it will be taken out; there is no foreign exchange to carry out the maintenance, the aircraft will remain there and the next thing we are going to hear about the aircraft is that it can’t be sent to Nigeria.

“That is one of the reasons we are having low capacity in the Industry as at today. What the federal government or any individual should be doing now is MRO facilities.

“If they should do this, nobody will regret it because there is work for them throughout the year. This is the Country where the weather has been so nice to us, unlike in Europe without good weather. It is good for us to have an MRO now.”

Animashaun pointed out that Nigeria loses a minimum of $300 million on capital flight flight annually, saying that without a sustainable MRO and the government looking at it, we will continue to be in a quagmire as we are having right away.

“Let’s do the calculation. The minimum you can do a C-check now for any airline is $1m; there are some C-checks that can even go as high as $2m, depending on the way and manner the aircraft is maintained. Let’s keep to the minimum of $1m.

“Let’s say on the average, each airline has three aircraft, the number of aircraft scheduled airlines we have, multiple it by $1m, by the time you do that, you will realise that we are losing about $300m as capital flight annually. If you have an MRO in Nigeria, that will remain in the Country,” he noted.

He regretted that the immediate past administration of Akwa Ibom State could not complete the ongoing MRO project in the State, assuring that the MRO going by the action of the current administration would be ready for use between first and second quarter of next year.

The MRO in completion according to the aircraft Engineer, would make a sustainable MRO for the Country.

His words: “You talked about Akwa Ibom, fortunately, I’m an insider in Akwa Ibom and if not for the immediate past government in the State, that project would have been constituted by now.

“Thank God we have a new government now in the State, I am assuring you that the MRO will be completed between the first and second quarter of 2022. As we speak, work is ongoing there and this government wants to finish it before the end of its tenure.

“With what I have seen there, you don’t need to go to anywhere for anything, everything is there. As from next year, Ibom Air will not take out its aircraft for heavy maintenance.”

Also speaking on the issue, Managing Director/CEO, Centurion Securities, Grp. Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd), posited that as long as the establishment of an MRO in the Country remains under the purview of the government it may never become a reality.

He recalled that building an aircraft maintenance depot in Nigeria has been on the government programmes as far back as the 80s, “but for the instabilities of governments and its policies, the project remains in the tunnel and never to see the day lights as long as it remains with the government administrators.”

Ojikutu who is also a member of the Aviation Round Table (ART) noted that what is trending in the commercial Aviation Sector globally today is public private partnership because government cannot regulate and still be sole operator of aircraft and maintenance at any level.

He opined that the delay in getting an MRO set up in the Country can only be either because there is no clear understanding among those responsible for policy administration in government or between them and those in the private partnership.

“Government cannot be thinking of concession of a part of commercial aviation and still want to keep another; again, you cannot be a regulator of the Industry and still be sole operator; either it excised itself from the ventures or be minority shareholder of not more than 20 per cent; foreign technical and financial investors 30 per cent; credible Nigerian investors 30 per cent and the balance of the 20 per cent for the Nigerian public,” the Aviation Analyst advised.

Continuing, he noted that the cost of aircraft offshore maintenance is and has always been exorbitant and wondered if the indigenous carriers can afford it putting their yearly earnings into consideration.

He said: “The cost ranged between $500,000 to $2m depending on the required level of maintenance. If you imagine about 50 aircraft in a year for whatever level and at average of $500,000 to $1m for an aircraft, you might be looking at total average of $25m to $50m.

“The question to ask; do these airlines and aircraft operators make such earnings annually in returns to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) or we still must find money for them from the public reserve? That is the dilemma of our Country in distress and now bleeding.”

Effort to reach the Director of Press and Publicity, Ministry of Aviation, Mr. James Odaudu, was unsuccessful as his phone line could not be reached as at the time of filing this report.

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