The leadership of the House of Representatives has today resolved the issues that led the Airlines Operators Association of Nigeria (AOAN) threatened strike action that would have grounded domestic flights across the country.
This speedy resolution comes as a surprise because ground, rail and water transportation have been grounded over activities of terrorists.
Less than one percent of Nigeria’s population, comprising largely of overfed and extremely corrupt elected officials have access to air transportation.
Also , the nation’s public universities have been on strike for over three months while the leadership of the House has not intervened once on why millions of poor and indigent students are at home.
At a meeting that lasted over three hours at the National Assembly on Monday, the House leadership, led by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila secured the commitment of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to, in the interim, make available 6 million litres of JetA1 (aviation fuel) available to the aviation fuel marketers chosen by the AOAN.
As part of the resolutions, it was agreed that as a long term solution, the airline operators must commence, as soon as possible, the process of securing a license for the importation of aviation fuel to avoid suspicion over the landing cost of the product and other associated logistic issues.
The Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority was also mandated to, as much as possible, grant waivers that do not touch on the security and safety of the country for importers of the products.
Stakeholders present at the meeting included the representatives of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Ministry of Aviation, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), NNPC, Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Nigerian Airspace Management Authority (NAMA) as well as the AOAN, among others.
At the meeting which took off on a rocky note, Speaker Gbajabiamila had warned that it was incumbent on the Chief Executive of agencies of government and the private sector to honour the invitation of the House on issues of national importance.
This happened after the representative of the governor of CBN was asked to excuse himself from the meeting by the Speaker, who emphasised that the importance and sensitivity of the meeting required the presence of the CBN governor due to the importance of the issues at stake.
The CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, who eventually walked into the meeting about 15 minutes later, gave reasons why he had to be represented before his eventual arrival.
In his remarks, Speaker Gbajabiamila said the nation was at a crucial moment as the shutdown by the airline operators amounts to a potential shutting down of the country. “We cannot sit here and watch this happen.
“That is why the presence of the CBN governor is very important because his role is very critical to the resolution of this issue”
The Speaker recalled that certain resolutions that included the sale of aviation fuel at N500 per litre and the granting of aviation fuel import license to the operators was arrived at during the last meeting with the stakeholders while requesting an update on the implementation of the resolution.
The leadership of the House also inquired from the NNPC about the status of the 25,000 tons of ATK approved for the airlines as a palliative in addition to the availability of the product to the airlines for about three months.
Also, the leadership opined that functional refineries should be able to address some of the challenges being faced while asking for the status of the refineries undergoing renovation.
Responding, NNPC GMD, Mele Kyari assured that the three months supply of Jet A1 to the chosen marketers by the AOAN is assured while emphasizing that the price of the product cannot be guaranteed because it is globally market-driven.
“We will make appropriate allocations to the three marketers chosen by the operators and the other,” Kyari said.
On his part, the CBN governor, Emefiele also noted that though the apex bank has no control over the flow of the dollar, he however assured that no operator would be denied facilities by the banks as long as they are creditworthy.
While appreciating all the stakeholders for the efforts put in at resolving the issue at stake, the Speaker said, “Rounding up on a positive note, I appreciate the airline operators for being nationalistic in calling off the strike as I hope that the outcome of this meeting will usher in a lasting solution to these challenges of Jet A1 bearing in mind that there is a laissez-faire economy of demand and supply”.