As challenges in the aviation industry keep rising, the Aviation Ground Handling Association of Nigeria (AGHAN) has advocated for ground handling companies in Nigeria to be provided with duty waivers, special window for forex and other incentives. 

The Chairman of AGHAN, Mr. Olaniyi Adigun stated that for the handling companies to remain in business, government support was necessary. This call was made on Tuesday, in Abuja, during the association’s courtesy visit to the Director-General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authroity (NCAA), Captain Musu Nuhu, and the Commissioner, Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Mr. Akin Olateru. 

Adigun went on to say that the fall of the naira against major currencies, was making it difficult for companies to acquire modern Ground Support Equipment (GSE) to augment their services. Thus, he posited that there be an intervention of the government. 

He pointed out that through the approval of a special window for forex and the removal of customs duties for the handlers, there would be improved safety in the industry, as funds saved from these would be utilized for training, re-training, attraction and retention of quality personnel for the sub-sector. 

Mr. Adigun also reported that by the last quarter of 2021, the handlers had achieved over 60 percent success in the implementation of the new safety threshold handling rate approved by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). On the other 40 percent, negotiations are ongoing with the handling companies to comply with the directive. 

“This is the first time in my years in the aviation industry that I will see a true change in the handling sub-sector in Nigeria. In the past, they engaged in unhealthy competition, which unfortunately worked against us, but today, we are seeing some changes. 

“However, some of the African airlines are yet to comply with this directive. But, serious negotiation was ongoing between them and us. One thing we want them to know is that this new safety threshold handling rate is for their benefit as we will be able to acquire more modern equipment that we will use to serve them”, said Adigun. 

Following this, Adigun appreciated Captain Musu Nuhu and Mr. Akin Olateru for their contributions in achieving the new safety threshold handling rate by the handlers. He also promised them that some of the money generated from the project would be used to increase delivery services to their clients. 

In response to Adigun, the Director-General, NCAA, Nuhu, stated that the handling companies were crucial to the aviation safety chain, despite the fact that their critical activities are unknown to air passengers. 

Nuhu stressed that without the handling companies, the aviation system may be compromised, and neglect of one of the chains in the industry could lead to an accident. According to him, “Aviation is an echo system and if one of the systems doesn’t function well, the others become useless. Whatever each component does, it must go round. The success of the industry is everyone’s success.

“If we concentrate on airlines alone and leave the others, it’s an accident waiting to happen. If everyone does his or her job, there won’t be any problem. I have seen an accident caused by a cleaner of an aircraft. The cleaner only forgot to remove a tape from the aircraft and it led to the death of over 200 people.” 

The Commissioner, AIB, Olateru, challenged the handlers to carry out a self-audit of their infrastructure and personnel, to reduce the number of airside accidents associated with ground handling. 

Also speaking, the Vice Chairman, AGHAN, Mr. Ahmed Bashir stated that the association was formed to enhance safety in the aviation industry, and that a staff who is ill-motivated was an accident waiting to happen. The Public Relations Officer of the association, Mrs. Boma Ukwunna, affirmed  the handling companies’ dedication to consistently support the government in improving security and safety in the industry.