Despite efforts being made by the Federal Government of Nigeria, the country’s aviation sector is still plagued with problems and there are concerns that the sector may be downgraded due to safety issues, high taxes and high cost of aviation fuel.
“As far as I’m concerned, category one has never really benefitted Nigeria. We really don’t need it. We spend a lot of money putting things together to get category one and what benefit is there,” Pekun Sowole, Aviation lawyer from Jurislaw legal practitioners told CNBC Africa.
The country currently has a category one status and is supposed to be enjoying benefits such as lower insurance premium and cheaper aircraft leasing, however, Sowole, is certain that whether or not the country retains the category one status or gets downgraded is not the real issue.
“If you continue to have air crashes, your insurance premium is going to go up. So whether you have category or one or two, it doesn’t really matter,” he added.
Nonetheless, if the country’s status is downgraded to category two, Nigerian airlines may not be able to fly to the US and this is the biggest source of concern in the industry especially for Arik Airlines as it flys directly to New York.
“In the worst case scenario, you would have to fly to Dakar, do security checks and go to the US. I think what we should say is, if we get downgraded, and our airlines can’t fly to the US, your airlines can’t fly directly to Nigeria. You’ll also go to Dakar, do custom checks before you come to Nigeria,” he said.
In spite of these developments, Sowole believes that a lot of airlines still want to come to Nigeria to operate to become carriers- even in the domestic sector- but the government will need to get their act together to allow them in.