Aviation stakeholders have called for a review of the safety threshold handling rates for ground handlers to prevent air crashes in the country.
The stakeholders made the appeal in separate interviews with aviation correspondents in Lagos on Monday.
According to them, the present handling rates can affect the ground handlers to perform optimally.
The handling companies presently charge between $300 and $1000 to handle a narrow body aircraft, rather than $1,400 to $1,600 charged in other African countries.
Also, handling companies still charge about $3,000 instead of $5,000 in sub-Saharan African countries for wide body aircraft.
The Aviation Ground Handling Association of Nigeria (AGHAN) said the Federal Government and the ground handling companies in the industry were losing an estimated $28,350,000 annually to inappropriate handling rates in the country.
However, the association said the appropriate handling rates should earn them about $56,700,000 annually.
The Pioneer Commissioner, Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Mr Sam Oduselu, said he had the privilege to see the current rates in the country and in any other parts of the world, adding that it was backward and should be reviewed.
Oduselu said the present rate the handlers collected at the moment could not sustain them to survive in the business and compete favourably with their counterparts internationally.
He said just as the airlines do maintenance checks on their aircrafts, the ground handling companies do likewise.
“They carry out maintenance schedules for their equipment, yet, no duty waiver for them, unlike the airlines.
“I think the major challenge they are having is that these ground handling companies were set up by airlines, but now that they are in the private hands, they found out that the charges are too low and they affect their profit margin.
“As a result of this, the activities of the ground handlers can jeopardise safety if staff are not adequately remunerated, not paid on time, you will find out that the staff will not put in their best on the job.
“With the way things are going on in our country today, no one wants an aircraft to be blown up in the air.
“We need to focus on whatever they are charging so that their operations can be what we expect it to be,” Oduselu said.
The former AIB boss said it has become expedient and extremely important for the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to intervene and ensure the commencement of a new handling rate.
He added that the handlers should also go through the aviation committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives so that the review could be backed up by law and would be part of the regulation in the industry.
Mrs Olatokunbo Fagbemi, the Group Managing Director, Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Plc, said the current handling rates were not sustainable because of the drop in the naira against major currencies.
“The challenges we have is that over the last few years, our rates have been static and some have even gone down, meanwhile foreign exchange and cost of living index have risen astronomically.
“We have been doing our best, showing that safety and security of our customer is not compromised and we want to continue to be able to do that to any airline that we serve.
“In moving forward, we have to invest in our Ground Support Equipment and our staff; we have done this and we will continue to do this, but within these astronomical changes that have not been matched with the recent changes, we need to review our rates.
“Can we continue to do that and survive as an organisation? The answer is no. Can we continue to offer the same level of services that we have been offering? The answer is no.”
The NAHCO boss therefore appealed to the federal government to support them with low rate of interest, grants and waivers and access to dollars at the same rate the airlines were buying.
She said they needed these to further enhance their businesses so that they could reduce the pressure on their operations.
On his part, the Managing Director, Skyway Aviation Handling Company Limited (SAHCOL), Mr Basil Agboarumi, noted that the poor handling rate could no longer be overlooked if they wanted a future for the handling companies in this country.
Agboarumi said there were so many things that come into place when talking of handling rates, adding that their umbrella body, AGHAN, was working to bring out the ideal rates on charges.
The managing director said the foreign airlines were charged $4,000 as handling rates in some West African countries; but when they come to Nigeria, their airlines give them peanuts as handling rates.
He said: “In Francophone African countries, they are united and they charge almost same flat rates, but for us here, we are losing quite a lot.
“Whatever we lose is not what that can be quantified. The handlers are losing billions, the government is losing billions. For me, I have to buy equipment and the right form of equipment when they are needed.
“I want to ensure that the necessary certifications that are needed are done to boost my job; I want to be able to pay competitive salaries to retain them. I want to retain my clients with the kind of services I am offering.”
Agboarumi said he had been in some circle whereby some of the airlines had said it publicly that the price review of the handling rate was unavoidable.
Kindly like us on Facebook