Senate warns against unlocking Aviation sector

By Edwin Akwueh, Abuja


The Senate has advised the Nigerian government against unlocking the Aviation Sector on Sunday as earlier planned, in line with phased easing of the Covid-19 induced lockdown.

Aviation committee of the Senate raised the alarm after an emergency meeting with leaders of unions in the sector led by the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers.

Strike action
The call to suspend unlocking of the sector this coming Sunday, was also canvassed by the union leaders in the sector on the need for required bailouts to be given first before re-opening airports, failure of which would lead to strike action.

The Nigerian government had scheduled June 21, 2020 for commencement of domestic flights in five major Airports across the country after about 75 days of lockdown in curtailing the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic.

However, the Senate Committee on Aviation after being briefed by Unionists in the sector on the inherent danger in the plan, called on government to suspend it for now.

The Chairman of the Committee in particular Senator Smart Adeyemi, said based on serious issues raised by stakeholders in the sector as regards safety and security, plan of  unlocking it should be postponed.

“As submitted by the key players in the Sector, many of the Pilots have lost currency and needed to be re-certified, Certificates of Airworthiness of most of the Aircraft have expired , most of the workers are owed salaries or on half salary since the lockdown began in March.

“These are serious issues directly connecting to safety and security aside required intervention that must be made by government in form of bailouts for the operators .

“Added to this, is the strike action being threatened by the Aviation workers and since it is better to have strike actions in the sector by aggrieved workers than a crash, there is need for government to tarry a bit on the planned unlocking of the sector this Sunday,” he said.

Former Minister of Aviation, Senator Stella Oduah concurred with Senator Adeyemi and the Aviation stakeholders on the need to suspend unlocking of the sector for now.

Leaders of various unions in the Sector like Comrade Galadima Abednego, the National President of National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, Comrade Ilitrus Ahmadu, National President of Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria and Comrade Nnamdi Hector, the General Secretary of Joint Aviation Trade Union Forum, had in their submissions, painted gloomy picture of the sector and imminent danger of restarting it on Sunday.

Comrade Abednego in his submission told the Committee members that many of the Pilots have lost their currency as a result of the lockdown spanning about 75 days now .

According to him, each of the Pilots requires $30,000 for re-currency or re-certification in the face of none payment of salaries.



Mercy Chukwudiebere