With the crisis aviation is experiencing as a result of COVID-19, ground handling in Nigeria is expected to experience a N20bn loss in revenue generations in 2020. This forecast was made available by the Association of Aviation Ground Handlers (AGHAN) which consists of Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Plc, the Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) and Aviation Handling Services (AHS).

The pandemic has dealt the global economy a major blow, and the aviation industry which includes ground handling has not been spared. This is why the association is insisting that freight forwarders will not be granted 100 per cent demurrage on cargo as demanded by its umbrella body the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA).

Speaking at an interview with journalists at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, the chairman of the association, Mr. Adigun Olaniyi stated that the advent of virus has affected the ground handling business.

Olaniyi stated that the essence of the association since its inauguration in December 2019, was to ensure sanity, fair play and entrench standards in the operational procedures of the ground handling business in Nigeria.

He also issued a not of warning that the loss to be experienced by ground handlers could exceed the N20bn forecast if the airspace was not opened up by June 2020. He went further by stating that the sector can only experience a miracle in the third and fourth quarter of 2020 as a major part of the first and second quarter has been lost to the pandemic.

In his words, he added: “We have our equipment bought in dollars and when we purchased these equipment, naira was still N360 to a dollar. We have import duties to pay to respective bodies. The government did not give us import waiver as it did to the airlines and others, yet, an ordinary forklift is not produced here in Nigeria, we only assembly them in the country Nigeria. Yet, the ground handlers charge for their services in naira.”

On the 100 per cent waivers request by freight forwarders, he declared that the ground handlers would not grant such request, saying that during the lockdown, the handlers did not get any form of waivers from the government and wondered why such should be granted any organization and body.

The AGHAN Chairman, charged ANLCA not to be myopic in their appeal for 100 per cent waivers; rather, advised the freight forwarders to go through the “normal” channel to press home their demand.

He said: “Even, we don’t encourage demurrage because the warehouses are not storage and it increases your liability. If government gives room to full operations by the airlines, when do you think the airlines will return to fly their normal frequencies? Once there is drop in frequencies, there will be drop in our passenger revenue.

“One can say cargo is coming in, but remember what we call multiplier effect. If America can lose up to 30 million jobs so far because of the crisis, can you quantify the number of jobs we are going to lose in Nigeria?

“If the importers bring in goods for instance and we decided to clear it free of charge and Nigerians don’t have enough capital to purchase the goods because they have lost their jobs, recession will set it and the importers will not be encouraged to bring in additional goods. So, there is going to be reduction in the cargo inflow because there is no economic power to buy these goods and services.”