THERE’S trouble in the skies as practically all the nation’s airlines are now suspending, cancelling and rescheduling flights, amidst acute aviation fuel shortage.
First to formally acknowledge there’s a big issue with procuring the essential aviation fuel was Nigeria’s largest indigenous airline, Arik Air.
The airline, ENCOMIUM Weekly exclusively reported, had to cancel the last of its Owerri-Abuja evening flight on Sunday, April 26, 2015 as a result of scarcity of aviation fuel.
Arik had to scale down flight operations all through last week. Things got so bad that the Managing Director of the airline, Mr. Chris Ndulue warned they might suspend flights if the scarcity persisted.
Arik’s position jolted the aviation sector as concerns were raised over the fate of thousands of passengers who would be stranded at the various airports across the country as Nigeria major airline planed to suspend flight operations due to the lingering aviation fuel scarcity in the country.
The Managing Director, Arik Air, Mr. Chris Ndulue made this disclosure on Friday, May 1, at the airline corporate headquarters while addressing aviation reporters.
He said the airline has been operating only 20 per cent of its daily flights schedule due to scarcity of aviation fuel, particularly in Lagos, its major hub.
According to Ndulue, “This aviation fuel scarcity started last week Thursday. And since then, we have had to scale down our operations due to non-availability of fuel. We have had to cancel and reschedule flights. We couldn’t depart for Dubai yesterday due to this scarcity. It is becoming impossible to continue. We will suspend flights operation from tomorrow (Saturday, May 2), until when aviation fuel becomes available.”
Arik Air controls about sixty percent of the Nigerian aviation market. The airline operates about 120 flights on its domestic routes daily covering over 22 airports across the country.
Efforts to know the true state of affair at Arik before going to press was not fruitful as the airlines spokes man, Mr. Ola Adebanji didn’t respond to our inquiries.
ENCOMIUM Weekly learnt that the scarcity of aviation has indeed forced all the airlines to cancel flights. From Aero Contractors, Air Peace, Dana to First Nation, it has been sad stories for travellers whose flights are cancelled at will.
For instance, only Arik flew to Lagos on Monday morning (May 4, 2015) as scarcity of aviation bite harder, despite the truce the Federal Government reached with petroleum product marketers.
A source told us that an Owerri-Lagos bound Aero flight was even cancelled on Monday (May 4) morning, even as other airlines didn’t fly at all.
A staff of Aero who was not authorised to speak on their behalf also told us that scores of flights are being cancelled since the scarcity of petroleum products hit the land.
“It’s been tough, my dear. Flights are being cancelled daily due to the scarcity of aviation fuel. Even international flights are affected. To double passengers’ woes, cost of flight has also increased marginally. I won’t advise my enemy to travel until this fuel issue is sorted out.”
A ticketing officer at Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport ENCOMIUM Weekly also spoke with complained about the negative effect of the acute fuel scarcity on aviation business. She regretted that the Federal Government has not handled the disagreement with oil marketers with the seriousness it requires.
The major oil marketers have refused to import products, claiming the Federal Government owes them over N200 billion after they were paid N156 billion last week. This has led to scarcity of petroleum products, including aviation fuel, nationwide.
FG WARNS OIL MARKETERS NOT TO HOLD THE COUNTRY TO RANSOME
Meanwhile, the Federal Government on Sunday, May 3, 2015 called on oil marketers to be patriotic in their decisions by considering the interest of Nigerians who always bear the brunt of their actions, noting that they should not by their actions hold the country to ransom.
The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, while speaking with journalists in Abuja said contrary to claims by the marketers that they were being owed about N200bn after being paid N156bn last week, what is being owed them is about N131bn.
The marketers had claimed that the government’s indebtedness to them for oil subsidy was about N354,4bn.
Confirming the figure, the Executive Secretary, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, Mr Thomas Olawore, had said, “The government had paid N154.2bn out of N354.4bn and we are left with a balance of N200.2bn.
“What happens to the N200.2bn? That is why we requested that the government invites us so that we can be told how it intends to liquidate the remaining N200.2bn.”
But the minister said this figure could not be correct, insisting that the balance that is left based on Petroleum Pricing Products Regulatory Agency’s template is about N131bn.
“As you know, we paid N156bn recently, N100bn of the principle payment that we owe them and then we paid N56bn interest rate and some remaining exchange rate differentials.
“Prior to that, we have just paid N31bn exchange rate differentials. So at the time we paid that last week, what we had outstanding is N98bn.”
According to her, every week, the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency sends data and that is what government only subscribes and certified as what is due to marketers.
“As at now, since we made the announcement last week, it has now risen from N98bn to N131bn outstanding in principle payment.
“And they are now making a demand of N200bn and I asked them what is the balance for,” she added.
She likened the oil marketers to a small cartel that are into a no risk business based on template negotiated with PPPRA long time ago which factored in exchange rate differential, and profit margin guarantee.
This situation, she said, leaves them with absolutely no risk.
She said, “It has become a situation where we have a cartel that can ground the nation to a halt at will. I strongly suggest that the nation has to do something about it.
- Stories by UCHE OLEHI