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The Aviation Ground Handling Association of Nigeria (AGHAN) has called for duty waivers, special window for foreign exchange and other incentives for ground handling companies in the country due to the current challenges faced by the industry.
The Association made the call during the courtesy visits to Director-General, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu and the Commissioner, Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Mr. Akin Olateru, in Abuja.
The Chairman of AGHAN, Mr. Olaniyi Adigun said, the handling companies rely on government supports to remain in business and harped on customs duty waivers, easy access to forex and other incentives for the handling sub-sector of the economy.
According to him, the handling companies were struggling to acquire modern Ground Support Equipment (GSE) to augment their services due to recent downturn in the economy occasioned by the fall of the naira against major currencies.
He posited that the approval of special window for forex and removal of customs duties for the handlers would further ensured safety in the industry as funds saved from these would be expended on training, retraining, attraction and retention of quality personnel for the sub-sector.
On the approval and subsequent implementation of the new safety threshold handling rate for the handling companies, Mr. Adigun noted that the handlers had achieved over 60 percent implementation.
On the other 40 percent, Adigun said, negotiations were ongoing with them to comply with the directive and expressed the hope that they would comply very soon.
“This is the first time in my years in the aviation industry that I will see a true change in the handling sub-sector in Nigeria. In the past, the engaged in unhealthy competition, which unfortunately worked against us, but today, we are seeing some changes.
“However, some of the African airlines are yet to comply with this directive. But, serious negotiation was ongoing between them and us. One thing we want them to know is that this new safety threshold handling rate is for their benefit as we will be able to acquire more modern equipment that we will use to serve them.
In his response, the NCAA DG said, the handling companies were part of the aviation safety chain, even though, their critical activities were not known to air travellers.
“Aviation is an echo system and if one of the systems doesn’t function well, the others become useless. Whatever each component does, it must go round. The success of the industry is everyone’s success.
“If we concentrate on airlines alone and leave the others, it’s an accident waiting to happen. If everyone does his or her job, there won’t be any problem. I have seen an accident caused by a cleaner of an aircraft. The cleaner only forgot to remove a tape from the aircraft and it led to the death of over 200 people.”
In his comment, the AIB commissioner challenged the handlers to carry out self-audit of their infrastructure and personnel to reduce the number of airside accidents associated with ground handling.
Vice Chairman, AGHAN, Mr. Ahmed Bashir said that the formation of the Association was to enhance safety in the industry, stressing that a staff who is not well-motivated was an accident waiting to happen.
Public Relations Officer, AGHAN, Mrs. Boma Ukwunna assured that, the ground handling companies would consistently support the government in increasing security and safety in the industry.