The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, on Sunday said the planned shutdown of airline operations by Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) wasn’t in any way a strike against the Federal Government.
The ministry reacted to inquiries by some media houses to clarify if the notice to the Federal Government and passengers by the Airline Operators of Nigeria to shut down airline operations from Monday, 9th was a strike over the rising cost of Jet-A1.
In a statement by the Special Assistant to the Honourable Minister of Aviation, Dr James Odaudu, he said operations of airlines were purely their private business and not connected to being a strike.
His statement read: “Since members of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) issued a notice of withdrawal of flight services as a result of the rising cost of Jet A1 (Aviation fuel), and in spite of the initial statement by the Ministry, enquiries have continued to flood in with some under the erroneous impression that the withdrawal was a kind of strike against the government.
We wish to state that the decision of the association is purely a business one as they are private businesses reacting to market forces but appealing for interventions to enable them to carry on with their operations.
The Ministry has always made conscious efforts to assist members of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), some of which includes facilitating a meeting between the Association and Mr President, during which the Association got several concessions, including duty-free importation of aircraft, engines, spare parts and components.
The Honourable Minister at various times personally took members of the Association to engage with Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to sort out issues of access to Foreign Exchange (FOREX) for their operations, and also the NNPC to exploit ways of ensuring the availability of Aviation fuel (JET A1) through importation or from the major marketers.
It should also be recalled that members of the Association were also considered for, and given Bail-out funds to the tune of N4 billion during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that they remained afloat. This was without prejudice to the fact that most of them were heavily indebted to Aviation agencies (as they still are).
We believe that members of the Association are patriots who have continued to bear the brunt of an unfavourable oil market for which we salute their doggedness.
It is gratifying that members of the Association have started reviewing the decision to withdraw flight services, with Ibom Air Green Africa Airlines, Arik Air, Dana and others confirming that they will carry on with their normal flight schedules. We hope that other members will consider the expected impact on businesses and individuals and review their decision.
We also wish to assure foreign airlines operating in the country that all logistics and services for their operations remain in place as usual and that no disruptions whatsoever should be envisaged.
As a government, we reiterate our commitment to the continued growth of the aviation industry where airlines and other service providers operate in a profitable and competitive environment.”