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Aviation Ground Handlers threaten indefinite strike

Ground Handlers on training Photo: NCAA

The Aviation Ground Handling Association of Nigeria, AGHAN has concluded plans to go on an indefinite strike over the stoppage of the new approved charges by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA about two months ago.

The body says, the industrial action will commence Friday this week.

The suspension of the new charge regime was a directive by the National Assembly aviation committees to allow them time to clear certain areas with the NCAA.

In August this year, the NCAA had approved new safety threshold handling rates for ground handling companies after 35 years of operating the old rates.

Stakeholders are worried that, if the ground handlers embark on strike, it would paralyze activities in the industry-leading to delays and cancelation of flights across airports in Nigeria.

They appealed to the lawmakers not to weaken the NCAA’s autonomy with their undue political interference.

According to them, Political interference especially where it hinges on Safety should be condemned in strong terms as global aviation frowns at such a scenario.

President, Aviation Roundtable Safety Initiative, ART, Dr. Gbenga Olowo says, the new handling rates were justified based on the economic indexes on all factors of production that had increased astronomically, including severe currency fluctuations.

“Refusal by government not to allow the prices to be driven by market forces suggests that the operators may be enjoying all sorts of subsidies, waivers, etc. just a speculation”.

Another stakeholder, Mr. Olu Uhuayo said, the increase in handling charges was justified as the handlers in the last 10 years were cutting themselves by the skin to attract clients and in doing so, they were almost going below production, which was affecting their balance sheet.

“We have to be factual, the ticket fares have increased from 1990 till now, reflecting the reality of today. the ticket you are paying N50,000, N60,000 for, was below N10,000 20 years ago. So, should the ground handlers remain stunted or stand by to the over 30 years agreement and their equipment are not procured in Nigeria? In the same market, they don’t have a special rate, they buy dollars from the black market to pay for these things. How will they survive?”.

Group Captain John Ojikutu retired stated that, political interference in the regulator’s affairs has had dire consequences for the Industry.

He said, political interference had been some form of deterrence in the progress of the economic sector and had caused the defunct or the downfalls of most Nigerian airlines, including Nigeria Airways.

He advised that the lawmakers in the aviation committees get copies of the CAA and Regulations, which they promulgated, read them to know where they have powers, before they exercise those powers.

Reporting by Nosa Aituamen; Editing by Tina Oyinsan