Aviation ground operators threaten nationwide strike

Ground handling firms have threatened to embark on an indefinite strike over the directive by the House of Representatives Committees on Aviation to the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) not to approve the companies for the implementation of the new ground handling rates.

Investigations by The Nation said the Aviation Ground Handlers Association of Nigeria of Ground Handling of (AGHAN) is putting modalities in place to commence the strike on Friday to ensure the commencement of the new regime as approved by NCAA about two months ago.

Last month, the NCAA approved that the ground handling firms increased the new safety threshold handling rates after 36 years from October 1, 2021 for international carriers and January 1, 2022 for local operators, but the House Committee on Aviation stopped it.

Stakeholders  have warned that the strike could have safety implications as the country may lose the United States Federal Aviation Administration (USFAA) Category One Status if the political class continues to interfere with oversight functions of the NCAA.

With the new rates, the handlers could charge between $1,500 and $5,000 (passenger and cargo flights) for narrow and wide body aircraft on international routes, while for domestic operators it was upped to N20,000 and N70,000, depending on the aircraft type.

With the approval, the ground handling firms – the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Plc, the Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) Plc, Precision Aviation Handling Company Limited (PAHCOL) and the Swissport Handling Company – were expected to charge the same handling rates as their counterparts in the sub-African countries.

The Director, Research, Zenith Travel, Mr Olumide Ohunayo, berated the National Assembly for meddling into the affairs of the NCAA.

He said: “I think the National Assembly should back off from interfering with the decisions taken by the regulator of the industry. This will not augur well for us. We cherish our achievements on the safety level, based on the prowess of our regulator and the ability to sustain it over the years and that has made them retain all certifications – FAA and ICAO.

“We do not want all these to be jeopardised or ridiculed by interference in the decisions taken by the regulator. This is never done and never accepted. The world is watching us.

“To the ground handling services, they cannot withdraw their services; it’s a critical part of the industry, but when push becomes shove, they can also use the weapon available to them through their association, but we don’t want it to get to that stage.”

Also, President, Sabre Network, West Africa, Dr. Gabriel Olowo, frowned at political interference, especially when it hinges on safety,  affirming that such a move should be condemned in very strong terms.

Chief Executive Officer Centurion Security Services, Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd) described the directive by the House Committee as unfortunate.

He said: “The problem is not much with the implementation of the new rates by the company, but the multiple layers of agencies charged at the airports. The increase is justifiable.

“I think we need to advise the NASS members of the aviation committees to have copies of the CAA and Regulations, which they promulgated, read them to know where they have powers in them before they exercise those powers.”

Credit: THE NATION

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