The Airlines Operators of Nigeria have called on the Senate to include President Muhammadu Buhari duty waiver on commercial aircraft and spare parts into the Finance Bill presently before the National Assembly.
The Vice President of the AON, Allen Onyema, stated this on Thursday, when the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, led members of the association on a courtesy call on the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan.
He said, “We plead with you on this issue of VAT, forex and other Customs charges, the effect is so much on us.
“We ask that we get these things incorporated in the Finance Bill. That is the only way we can begin to save the industry.”
He lamented the reintroduction of government duties on imported spare parts for aircraft by the Nigeria Customs Service.
He said private airlines would have suspended flying indefinitely owing to the high cost of operations.
Onyema, who is also the Chairman of Air Peace, said the return of high duties on imported parts has made it impossible for airlines to undertake clearance of aircraft parts at seaports and cargo sheds, a situation which poses a risk to the safety of fliers.
He said, “The President of this country, Muhammadu Buhari, in determination to encourage indigenous businesses in this country, decided to grant zero duty to airlines for the importation of commercial aircraft and spare parts.
“He equally granted waivers to airlines. In the last six years, this has helped airlines in Nigeria.
“However, just recently this year, the Customs decided to reintroduce it, even when Mr. President has not revoked his presidential order taken at the Federal Executive Council. They’ve introduced a clearing that is alien to aviation.
“Mr. President, I would like to intimate you, that this particular regime to reintroduce what Mr. President has granted us has made airlines to be groaning.
“Many of these airlines have their spare parts at the seaports and cargo sheds not being cleared because we don’t have that money to clear them. And we can never endanger the lives of people in this country by flying aircraft that are unsafe.”
The President of the Senate assured the airline operators that the National Assembly will ensure that the Aviation sector is protected and supported.
Lawan said for private investors in the country’s aviation industry to survive, government policies must be fine-tuned in a way to ensure they thrive.