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Foreign airlines operating in Nigeria saturday described the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos as the most expensive airport in the world, attributing it to high and multiple charges the government agencies in the aviation industry have been billing them.

The international carriers urged the government agencies to harmonise their charges, noting that with low charges, more airlines would come into the country, more revenues would be generated and more jobs created in the long run.

Speaking under the auspices of Association of Foreign Airlines and Representatives in Nigeria (AFARN) saturday in Lagos, the operators said the multiple charges were affecting their operations in the country.

Director of Virgin Atlantic Cargo in Nigeria, Mr. Philip Wetherall, said with the multiple charges imposed on the foreign operators, investment opportunities would continue to elude Nigeria.

For instance, Wetherall explained that the airlines “are currently paying N5,000 per kilo on exported goods and N7,000 per kilo of imported goods to the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) in addition to other charges.”

He observed that despite the exorbitant charges, facilities on ground most of the airports could not justify the charges, stressing that the facilities required massive improvement.

He, therefore, called on all agencies in the sector “to harmonise their charges and review them downwards to attract more investment into the country.”

Wetherall noted this act was affecting the contribution of the industry to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the nation’s economy.

According to him, “There should be collaboration among government agencies in the sector. Lagos Airport is one of the most expensive airports in the world to operate into.

“However, we still need to improve our services and infrastructure to meet up with international community. The fact still remains that the more revenues we earn, the more money to the coffers of the government. Aviation in Nigeria needs to be revolutionised.”

Also speaking, the President of AFARN, Mr. Kingsley Nwokoma, noted that multiple charges had been a major challenge to the operations of airlines in the country.

He said the federal government through the Ministry of Transportation, Aviation Unit, had set up a committee to address the challenges including multiple charges complaints by the operators, though regretted that nothing came out of the committee.

He pointed out that until some of these challenges “are addressed, the Ease of Doing Business policy of the Federal Government will continue to be a mirage.

“The slogan now is Ease of Doing Business. But how easy is this Ease of Doing Business? We have lots of touts working around the airport. We are talking about safety and security. How can we be able to contribute to the GDP growth with all these?

“Yams are eaten all over the world, but Nigerian yams are not accepted in many countries. Exporters package yams to Ghana, rebrand them and give it another name and immediately this is done, it becomes accepted in Europe and other countries.

“The facilities the ground handling companies have in Nigeria are not adequate to preserve some of our farm produce. So, exporters take them to neighbouring countries.”

Domestic airline operators had over the years been lamenting about the multiple charges levy on their operations by government agencies.

Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), the umbrella body of indigenous airlines in the country, claimed that the government agencies imposed 32 charges on them, thereby calling for a review.

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