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OPINION: FUELING INDUSTRIAL DISHARMONY

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The ‘oxygen’ of the aviation industry is leaving operators gasping for breath. In a statement issued on May 6, 2022, the Airline operators of Nigeria (AON) declared their decision to discontinue operations nationwide, with effect from Monday May 9, 2022, till further notice.

AON cited the astronomical price increase in JET A1 fuel as the reason for its position.

In its response, oil marketers, acting under the aegis of the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), blamed the skyrocketing price of aviation fuel on Nigeria’s dependence on importation of the commodity and its exposure to international price movements caused by the twin shock of increased post-pandemic demand and reduced supply due to the ongoing sanctions against Russia.

It is always distressing to read about heightened disputes within the aviation industry. This is because it operates as an ecosystem. We can all agree that such interconnected and interdependent systems need all hands-on deck and all ducks in a row, if it must deliver its unique mission in our lives and our means of livelihood

In the words of a former Director-General of IATA, Tony Tyler, “Every plane carries with it enormous possibilities. Business is connected to markets. Tourists are brought to amazing destinations. Students travel to study. Products are delivered to consumers. Aid is transported to the needy. Doctors reach their patients. Components are brought to assembly lines. Ideas cross oceans. Families are reunited. Friends are made. International understanding is facilitated. And our world becomes a better place”.

In our aviation outlook for this year, we shared the view of many experts that the price of oil was going to rise. This estimate did not take the possibility of a war between Russia and Ukraine into account. As operators, who are highly dependent on the impact of energy, AON could have done a better job of preparing itself .

Many stakeholders who have criticised AON’s lack of action in the past are pleased by its increasing willingness to take up its role on behalf of the industry that is so heavily impacted by every single economic shock. Airlines must engage to survive but they cannot thrive if they disengage other players in the ecosystem or treat them like their enemies.The Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) is the singular most important stakeholder for resolving this current situation. We take the view that its failure on several fronts is responsible for our import dependence as a nation. AON and MOMAN should be united in getting the NNPC and other Government stakeholders to deliver a workable solution for the industry.

Where would we be if all service providers threaten to down tools because of the rise in energy price, ‘’especially given that diesel prices have risen faster than that of JET 1 fuel’’? If it is okay for airlines to enjoy the fruits (and shocks) of deregulation, it cannot deny oil marketers the same. There are organisations that can offer airlines different solutions to improve their Jet fuel strategies. All they need to do is make enquiries.

*** Babatunde Adeniji is Founding Partner of General Sales and Solutions Management Limited, Lagos.