The number of airline start-ups in Nigeria increased in the last five years. At present, about 10 commercial airlines are operating in the country. They include Aero Contractors, Air Peace, Arik Air, Azman Air, Dana Air, Ibom Air, Max Air, Overland Airways, United Nigeria Airlines and Green Africa Airlines. A few other carriers are warming up to join them.
Investigation shows that as of August 2021, there were no fewer than 25 airlines seeking AOCs from the NCAA, notwithstanding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that has seen many countries lose viable airlines. For example, a new entrant, Nigeria Eagle Airlines, is said to have gone far with the processing of its Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC). With a minimum of three aircraft, it was gathered, the airline will resume operations any moment from now.
An AOC is an approval granted by a national aviation authority (NAA) to an aircraft operator to allow it to use aircraft for commercial purposes. This requires the operator to have personnel, assets and systems in place to ensure the safety of its employees and the general public.
Similarly, Chanchangi Airlines is also trying to make a comeback having gone far in its AOC procurement with the NCAA. Nesmen, however, gathered that the airline wants to come back with an aircraft fleet of ATR, possibly this year or early in 2022.
Speaking on the growth of the aviation industry over the years, the Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt Musa Nuhu, said that, although the COVID-19 pandemic significantly changed the global industry in all ways, Nigeria’s aviation industry is growing rapidly.
In a meeting with journalists recently, Capt Nuhu confirmed that more airlines are coming up and the existing domestic airlines are expanding their operations by ordering more aircraft and linking all sorts of routes.
He said, “The connectivity of the country has improved significantly and it is going to get much better as you can almost travel from any part of the country to another. We are almost at that point. Like the days of Nigerian Airways, when you can go from anywhere to anywhere, it is even getting better. I can travel from Asaba to Kano and from Port Harcourt to Kano. I can travel to Sokoto, Bauchi and Gombe. It is really amazing.”
On airports, Nuhu pointed out that Nigeria also has more airports now as many state governments are currently building airports, adding, “Airports are popping up all over the place. So that has increased the span of activities and the responsibilities of the NCAA as the regulator of the industry.”
The DG noted that such changes in the growing number of airline operations and their activities have increased NCAA duties over time. “Our surveillance programme has increased. It has put a lot of demand on us. The workload has significantly increased and this might get worse as time goes. That has put a lot of pressure on us,” he said.
To ensure that the airports, which are also springing up, meet global standards, Nuhu said the Lagos and Abuja airports were certified a few years ago and currently undergoing recertification.
“There has been some progress. We have a few gaps that are to be closed. Some have been closed, others, we are in the process of closing them and new gaps have come,” he disclosed.
The DG added that the NCAA is working closely with the management of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to close those gaps so that the recertification process can be completed as soon as possible.
“Apart from that, we are also talking about initial certification for Port Harcourt, Enugu and Kano Airports. All the international airports have to be certified. It is quite a big project to certificate five airports: two initials and three re-certifications. It is quite a heavy load to be done, but hopefully, we will get them done as soon as possible,” he said.
Confirming those domestic airlines that are processing their AOCs, Capt Nuhu said, “I know about three or four intending airlines are in the process. Some of them have gone far, while others are initiating. The domestic industry in Nigeria is growing. People don’t feel comfortable going on the road, so they prefer to travel by air. Also, the interconnectivity is growing between all facets of the corners of the country.
“Nigeria Eagle Airlines have gone far. They said they have the three minimum aircraft to start operation. Once I get the file, I can brief you, but I know they have gone far.”
On the other hand, the business prospects of private jet operators are said to be declining due to economic setbacks.
Capt Nuhu, who confirmed the development in the past five years, also said, “I think in the last five years, the number of private jets we have has reduced. We all can understand why – the economy has not been buoyant. It takes a lot of money to run a private jet, depending on the type you have.”