Airline owners under the aegis of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) on Monday met with the new Minister of Aviation, Chief Festus Keyamo, to discuss issues affecting the airline subsector.
The AON team was led by its vice president, Mr. Allen Onyema, to meet the minister on the sidelines of the reception he organised at A-Class Parks and Recreation in Maitama, Abuja, shortly after his inauguration by President Bola Tinubu.
Also on hand to receive the minister were the Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines, Prof. Obiora Okonkwo, who is the spokesman of the association as well as the CEO of TopBrass Airlines, Roland Iyayi.
The reception was attended by CEOs of aviation agencies including the minister’s associates in the legal profession and schoolmates from his secondary school and university.
For several minutes inside the hall, the minister was seen conferring with the airline operators, engaging in heart-to-heart discussions about the airline industry.
Our correspondent who was at the venue also heard some guests saying Keyamo’s appointment was a new dawn for aviation in Nigeria.
Daily Trust reports that AON was at loggerheads with the immediate past minister, Senator Hadi Sirika, over the proposed national carrier over which the operators sued the federal government amidst plan to confer special advantage to Nigeria Air.
The case, which was hitherto transferred to Abuja, has been returned to the Federal High Court in Lagos for continuation of the hearing.
It was not clear if the Nigeria Air case was part of the discussions AON had with the minister but stakeholders have advised the federal government to stay clear of a national carrier and focus on developing flag carriers for Nigeria.
The AON is agitating that the minister should focus on removing impediments stalling the smooth operation of domestic airlines.
Nigeria has 11 scheduled domestic airlines including Air Peace, Arik Air, Azman, Dana Air, Ibom Air, Max Air, Overland, Rano Air, Aero contractors, United Nigeria Airlines and ValueJet.
But presently Azman and Max Air operations have been suspended over absence of operating aircraft and ongoing audit by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) respectively.
Iyayi had, while setting agenda for the minister, advised him to focus on issues of availability of foreign currency to address aircraft spares and maintenance, depopulation of the various agencies, engagement of competent personnel and proper remuneration to ensure retention, and importantly the simplification of processes by the regulatory body for ease of doing business.
Meanwhile, the new minister during his resumption vowed to be transparent in his dealings with stakeholders and to address complaints from passengers.
“We are going to move from very complex issues to simple issues that every Nigerian faces. They may not know the work we are doing behind in terms of safety, but usually, people appreciate what they see every day like the cleanliness of the environment, and how early they get their flight among others. At every point in time, we must put the people first…”