By Chinedu Eze

Some international airlines, which hitherto had their operational bases in Nigeria, have started relocating their offices to Accra, Ghana from where they come to pick passengers in Nigeria.
The airlines, THISDAY gathered, cited the poor value of the naira, high cost and paucity of aviation fuel as some of the reasons for their relocation.

Already, one of the major international operators in Nigeria, Emirates started last Sunday to pick up Nigerian passengers and take them to Accra, where it refuels and before heading back to Dubai, its operational hub.

THISDAY also gathered that some other airlines are already opening their Accra offices, while some have started both Accra and Lagos flights.

The Chairman of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), Capt Nogie Meggison, who confirmed Emirates latest decision said other foreign airlines may follow suit because of the high cost of aviation fuel, which is hurting air transport business in Nigeria. He noted that some of the airlines may even begin to attract Nigerian passengers to travel to Ghana to board international flights.

While aviation fuel is sold at N200 to N250 per litre in Nigeria, the product is sold at N110 per litre in Accra as the West African neighbouring country reduced the price of the product by 20percent about two weeks ago.

Meggison said that Ghana may also use the price of aviation fuel, known as Jet A1 to attract more foreign airlines operating into Nigeria to move to Accra, a development, which he said will hurt hotel and logistics supply businesses in Nigeria.
He also noted that domestic airlines would also lose connecting passengers from other destinations to Lagos and Abuja where they board international flights.

“AON condemns this new move because it will affect Nigeria adversely because when this is done Nigerian airlines operations will be curbed and it will end up shutting our economy. With Emirates move to Ghana Transcorp has lost 18 crew, engineers and logistics service providers,” he said.

Meggison also frowned on what some industry observers described as the cartel of oil marketers that arbitrarily fix price of aviation fuel to boost their profits. He noted that as they make profits from the aviation fuel they are stifling Nigeria’s economy because they drive away foreign airlines out of the country, adding that the international carriers are learning to wait at Nigeria’s neighbouring countries for Nigerian passengers because of the harsh operational environment due to government’s inimical policies and seeming insensitivity to the fact that Nigeria’s economy is suffering.

The AON Chief said Mobile and Total are making excess profits from their downstream operations because of the run-away revenues they generate from the sale of aviation fuel.

Meggison said AON should be given allocation to start importing Jet A1, noting that domestic carriers need about 1.2 million litres of fuel a day.

The secretary of Aviation Round Table (ART) and former Commandant of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Group Captain John Ojikutu (retd) said that oil marketers have priced aviation fuel out of reality, pointing out that by selling the product from N200 per litre it is no more in consonance with the exchange rate.

“When dollar was sold for N165 the price of aviation fuel was about N80.00 per litre. Now the price of dollar has doubled, so ideally the price of aviation fuel should be about N160.00. By selling the product for N200 and above, the marketers are trying to kill the air transport industry, which is a catalyst to every nation’s economy.”

When contacted however, the PR agency, JSP that handles Emirates media service said it was unaware that Emirates had moved to Ghana and expressed doubt that the airline could be operating from Accra to pick passengers in Lagos.




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