Agitation for a review of handling rates in the aviation sector took a new twist at the weekend following revelations that the federal government loses $28 million annually due to inappropriate handling charges.
This was gleaned from the number of aircraft handled daily by the ground handling firms and the charges collected on them.
Daily Trust reports that there has been an outcry, especially among ground handling operators, over inappropriate handling charges, with a call on the regulatory authority, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), to set up a minimal safety threshold handling rate.
This followed the revelation that the handling rate in Nigeria is the cheapest in the whole of Africa
Findings revealed that handling companies still charge between $300 and $1,000 to handle a narrow body aircraft, rather than $1,400 to $1600 charged in other African countries.
For wide body aircraft, they charge about $3,000 while $5,000 is charged in Sub-Saharan African countries for similar aircraft type.
It was learnt that no fewer than 45 narrow body aircraft on regional and international routes comprising Boeing B737, Airbus A320, ER 135 and ATR are handled daily at the nation’s international airports by the ground handling companies.
Similarly, at least 20 wide body aircraft like B767, A330, B777 and B747 are also handled daily by the ground handling companies.
Operators say appropriate handling rates should fetch them and the federal government about $56.7m annually.
They insist the current rates are not sustainable because of the drop in naira against major currencies because the Ground Support Equipment (GSE) and other facilities used in servicing the GSE are procured abroad.
For domestic operations, some airlines pay as low as N12,000 to N20,000 for aircraft turnaround.
The Group Managing Director of the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO), Mrs Olatokunbo Fagbemi, who spoke on the issue, said, “The challenge that 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.
“In moving forward, we have to invest in our GSE, facilities and our people; 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.”
The Managing Director of Skyway Aviation Handling Company, Mr Basil Agboarumi, said the Association of Ground Handlers of Nigeria (AGHAN) was working to bring out the ideal rates.
He explained that, “I know AGHAN is working out to bring out the ideal rates on charges. One of the CEOs told us that to operate in some West African countries; they are charged about $4,000 as handling rate. Also, when our airlines go to Saudi Arabia, they cannot negotiate the charges, but when they come in here, their airlines give us peanuts as handling rates.”
Speaking on the development, pioneer Chief Executive Officer of Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Dr Sam Oduselu, said the handling rate in Nigeria was due for review; charging NCAA to spearhead the move as the apex regulator.
Dr Oduselu said, “The ground handling sector in Nigeria is due for a review. I have had the privilege to see the current rates in Nigeria and in many other parts of the world. If we compare the rates here with any other part of the world, you will see that the rates here are the cheapest, and with such a ridiculous rate regime, it will be difficult for handling companies to survive if we continue to operate under this regime.”