Worried by the rising cost of doing business in Nigeria, Chairman United Nigeria Airlines UNA, Prof. Obiora Okonkwo, has urged the Federal Government to consider subsidising the aviation sector by creating a “Special Fund” for the aviation sector operators. Okonkwo made the call in Abuja while speaking at a retreat organised by management of United Nigeria Airlines to mark its two- year operation in the aviation industry. The retreat, which had as its theme, “Positioning United Nigeria for Value Creation and Retention” was organised for management staff of the company. Okonkwo said the call for provision of special funding for operators in aviation, became necessary given its essential duty nature and its growing contribution to the Gross Domestic Product GDP.
“We are just asking for a special funding window that should be of a single digit and that is easily accessible, not necessarily on paper, but it is not accessible. We still believe that this government has done a lot for the aviation industry, though, more needs to be done and we think that the bigger legacy that this government will leave for the aviation industry is to ensure that the operators survive. No operator should go under, rather let there be new operators in the business of aviation. We are very patriotic Nigerians, who have contributed so much to the GDP of the nation, giving employment, it is a sector that I advise this government and in coming government to take very seriously. If properly harnessed, it will be a great source of foreign exchange for the country, especially, if the local operators should be empowered, this industry, we believe remains a critical and essential industry, that should be treated as such. This industry cannot survive further at the regular commercial rates. We know that there are privileges given to sectors like agriculture and others, aviation should be considered also.
“So you can imagine, a situation where you go to the bank today and access naira loan at the rate of 25 to 30 per cent and then you go back to the foreign exchange window and buy it at the rate of N750 ,you just basically operate for nothing”, he said. Okonkwo said that the United Airlines management was committed to further improving on its performance going further, despite the challenges experienced in the past year. Chief Operating Officer and Executive Director of the airline, Mr Osita Okonkwo said the company’s strategy, going forward was to continue on its growth trajectory. “We have started with already with A 320, which is already flying, more will join the fleet. We are expanding our destinations, we have the objective of having a footprint in every airport in Nigeria. We are about to start Jos and Benin, and other towns in the North- East and North-West will follow. We are going outside Nigeria, we are moving regionally, we are going through the regulatory process now, we have gotten our airline carriers permit. We have gotten designations to a number of countries, which will be announced soon”, he said.