The Federal Government has been challenged to provide a window of special funding for airline operators in the country.
The Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines, Prof. Obiora Okonkwo, made the call in Abuja on Thursday while speaking at a retreat organised by the company to mark its two-year operation in the Nigerian aviation industry.
Okonkwo explained that the call for the provision of a window of special funding for operators in aviation became necessary given its essential duty nature and its growing contribution to the Nigerian Gross Domestic Product (GDP). He said:
“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.”
His rationale: According to him, the creation of special funding for the operators would prevent them from going under even as new ones can also emerge.
He said the indigenous airline operators had been very patriotic, while also contributing immensely to the growth of the nation’s GDP, adding that the operators also create huge employment for qualified Nigerians.
“Because, 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 are such.
“This industry can not 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,” he added.
He further emphasized that this would be a win-win situation for both government and the operators and ultimately for the good of Nigerians.
Growth strategy: Okonkwo insisted that the United Airlines management was committed to further improving its performance going further, despite the challenges experienced in the past year.
The 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 part.