To reduce the cost of aviation fuel, Nigeria will soon begin its production, Minister of State for Aviation Senator Hadi Sirika has said.

Its production, he noted, would also regularise its supply and lead to a reduction in air fares

Sirika,who spoke at a stakeholders’ forum in Abuja, said the government had approved duty waivers’ for importation of aircraft and spares to ensure the survival of domestic airlines.

The government, he said, was working on an aviation masterplan.

The masterplan, Sirika said,would be incorporated into the National Integrated Infrastructure Master Plan ( NIIMP).

He said without a sector master plan, it would be difficult for stakeholders to raise ideas or programmes that would be beneficial to the industry. According to him, stakeholders must live up to their responsibilities by demonstrating preparedness to take aviation higher. The minister said government was concerned about aviation fuel challenges which, he noted, were affecting the operations of domestic carriers.

Sirika said the Ministry of Aviation is working with the Central Bank of Nigeria ( CBN), the Ministry of Budget and National Planning and that of Finance to include airlines on priority list of its foreign exchange allocation, stating that government has opened this window for domestic carriers because of the huge challenges faced by operators who sell tickets in local currencies and are expected to purchase aircraft spares and carry out maintenance in foreign currencies.s

He spoke of government’s plans to set up an Aviation Development Fund, for industry entrepreneurs to get long-term funding at reasonable interest rates.

He said access to capital at single digit for airline operators will support growth and stability in the industry, saying that government is conscious of the need to protect indigenous operators and professionals, by ensuring that there is enforcement of expatriate quota system and policy review validation of foreign licence.

“Currently, there are lots of trained professional aviators especially pilots that are unemployed in Nigeria, while foreign aviation professionals are taking these jobs meant for Nigerians and are paid in foreign currency.”

However, he said the problems of the sector are not without solution as government is planning to establish an Aviation Leasing Company to address issues bordering on limited access to capital and high cost of funds, huge debt profile, inadequate number of aircraft and high cost of leasing.

He said the need to restructure the industry has become imperative in the face of ageing work force, dearth of professionals as well as unsustainable level of staffing .

“We need to begin to address these issues by focusing on capacity building, staff verification and biometrics, review of people processes and technology, drive for leaner organisations for the agencies, agencies becoming self accounting for efficiency and review of acts setting up agencies to upscale governance and reduce overlap in functions,” he said.

He canvassed for the establishment of a university that would produce the needed workforce for efficiency. He said:“This is driven by absence of high level management cadre, absence of research and development capacities to evolve long term plans and strategic vision for the industry.

“This is to be achieved with technical and manegement support of the International Civil Aviation Organisation and some donor nations.This item will require legislation and government will provide the enabling enviroment .” The minister also spared a thought for the huge cost of aircraft maintenance as well as absence of major aircraft repairs facility in Nigeria and West Africa.

He said: “There is the need to create an enabling enviroment for the setting up of a world class aircraft maintenance repair and overhaul facility that will attract clientele from all over the world especially Africa,” adding that the facility will further be encouraged to start manufacturing airplane parts in the long term.