Abuja, Nigeria – October 10, 2023: Domestic airlines operating under the umbrella of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) have made a formal request to the Federal Government for the authorization to import and distribute aviation fuel, commonly known as JetA1. Additionally, they have called for a dedicated foreign exchange line from the Central Bank of Nigeria to ensure their ability to fulfill passenger obligations.
This appeal was made during a courtesy visit to the Minister of Aviation, Festus Keyamo, at his office in Abuja. Abdulmunaf Yunusa, the President of AON, led the delegation and highlighted the purpose of their visit, which included briefing the minister on sector challenges, proposing solutions, and congratulating him on his recent appointment.
The Nigerian aviation industry has been grappling with a range of issues, including the availability and cost of aviation fuel. JetA1 is a specialized type of aviation fuel that is essential for the operation of jet aircraft. Its consistent supply and affordability are crucial for the uninterrupted functioning of domestic airlines.
CEO Roland Iyayi of Top Brass Aviation, a prominent member of AON, emphasized the urgent need to ensure a consistent supply of aviation fuel within the industry. He stated that it was crucial to facilitate the liberalization, procurement, and distribution of JetA1 fuel across the nation. Currently, the supply of aviation fuel in Nigeria is largely controlled by a few major players, leading to concerns about monopolistic practices and pricing issues.
Mr. Iyayi also stressed the importance of granting AON the license for product importation and distribution. Currently, the importation and distribution of aviation fuel in Nigeria are tightly regulated, and this has limited the ability of airlines to directly participate in sourcing and distributing this essential resource. Allowing airline operators to procure the necessary licenses would not only ensure a more reliable supply of JetA1 but also potentially lower costs for domestic airlines, leading to more competitive fares for passengers.
The request for a dedicated foreign exchange line from the Central Bank of Nigeria stems from the airlines’ need to access foreign currency to meet their financial obligations. This includes the procurement of aircraft parts, maintenance services, and payments to international vendors. Foreign exchange rates in Nigeria have been subject to volatility in recent years, and securing a stable source of foreign currency is essential for the financial stability of airlines.
Minister Festus Keyamo acknowledged the concerns raised by AON and assured the delegation that the government would give their requests careful consideration. He emphasized the government’s commitment to improving the aviation sector’s efficiency and ensuring the sustainability of domestic airlines. The minister recognized that a thriving domestic aviation industry is not only vital for the economy but also for the convenience and connectivity of the Nigerian people.
The aviation industry plays a vital role in Nigeria’s economy, contributing significantly to transportation, trade, and tourism. It serves as a lifeline for both urban and remote areas, facilitating economic growth and social development. Addressing the concerns raised by domestic airlines is seen as a significant step toward enhancing the sector’s growth and competitiveness.
As of now, the process of importing and distributing JetA1 fuel is largely controlled by the major oil marketing companies. The government’s willingness to consider AON’s request for a license to import and distribute aviation fuel could potentially open up the market, increase competition, and lead to more favorable pricing for airlines and passengers alike.
In recent years, domestic airlines in Nigeria have faced numerous challenges, including high operational costs, infrastructure limitations, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Providing them with the tools and flexibility to access aviation fuel and foreign exchange more efficiently could go a long way in supporting their recovery and long-term sustainability.
Industry stakeholders are closely watching the government’s response to these requests. Any policy changes or initiatives in response to AON’s appeal could have a significant impact on the domestic aviation sector and, by extension, the Nigerian economy.