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• No aircraft will be allowed to fly, aviation workers vow

Chaos may break out across airports in the country as aviation unions vowed on Sunday to begin a two-day warning strike on Monday.

The development could leave many air passengers stranded in Lagos, Abuja and other airports in the country.

Domestic and international airlines are likely to be forced to cancel their flights as aviation workers down tools in protest against what they say is the government’s failure to address their concerns regarding National Minimum Wage Consequential Adjustment and working conditions.

Union leaders said they were left with no choice but to take a drastic action to force the Federal Government to implement earlier agreements reached on minimum wage and workers general welfare.

Last week, aviation workers issued a two-day warning strike notice signed by the secretaries general of five unions stating that if the warning strike, scheduled to commence on April 17 failed, an indefinite strike would be embarked upon.

The unions threatened to withdraw their services over the refusal of the Federal Government to release the reviewed condition of service negotiated over seven years ago.

Other grievances include the non-implementation of the National Minimum Wage consequential adjustments and arrears for workers of the Nigeria Meteorological Agency since 2019.

Aviation unions comprise the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals, Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees.

On Sunday, the union leaders told The PUNCH that barring any last-minute change, they would embark on the strike beginning from Monday (today).

The unions also, in a letter to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority where the agency had called for a meeting to look into the grievances of the union, stated that while they appreciate the Director-General of the NCAA, they would not be able to honour the invitation as they had other meetings slated for the same day.

The letter read in part, “Our unions sincerely appreciate the genuine concern of the DGCA towards upholding and maintaining of industrial peace and harmony in the aviation industry, but we regret to be unavoidably constrained to make the trip to Abuja for the scheduled 1.00 pm meeting today (Sunday).

 “This is mainly due to the fact that our unions have slated a series of meetings with our structures for today in Lagos, first of which comes up at 1.00 pm immediately after church services, to discuss the issues at hand.

“Sir, we are however available to meet with the DGCA and his team today in Lagos after our meeting. Once again, we are appreciative of our DGCA’s sincere intervention.”

Also, unions in the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria and the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency are agitated over plans by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, to demolish their offices to pave the way for an aerotropolis project.

This move to demolish aviation agencies came barely three months to the end of the Buhari administration and almost a year after Sirika demolished the data analysis laboratory of the Accident Investigation Bureau, now National Safety Investigation Bureau, to make way for an Apron expansion.

The building is estimated to be over N5bn.

The unions also raised the alarm over what it described as a forced relocation of AIB, NCAA, FAAN and NAMA staff to Abuja, claiming that the majority of the workers had no offices and were squatting in FCT while their fully functional offices in Lagos remain unused.

Earlier, the unions, on February 7, 2023, issued a 14-day ultimatum to the Federal Government on the same issue.

Speaking with the PUNCH on Sunday in Abuja, the Secretary-General, NUATE, Ocheme Abah, said the strike would be held in all airports across the country.

He stated that the strike would go ahead unless their irreducible minimum demands were met.

The demands in question include the release of all outstanding condition of service payments with the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission and the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation and arrears paid.

Additionally, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency’s Consequential Adjustment must be implemented, and the demolition exercise halted.

Abah said, “The strike will go ahead and all airports will be inoperable until all outstanding CoS with NSIWC and OHCSF are released, and NiMet Consequential Adjustment is implemented. Also, the demolition exercise must be halted. These are our irreducible minimum demands and arrears must be paid.”

The spokesperson for the Ministry of Labour, Olajide Oshundun, noted that discussions are ongoing between the Ministry of Labour and Employment and the Ministry of Aviation with the aviation unions to avert the two days intended strike.

 Oshundun said, “The aviation union wrote to the Ministry of Labour and Employment to notify the ministry of the intended strike (21 days’ notice). After the expiration of the 21 days, they gave another seven days.

“When the ministry got this letter, immediately, the ministry contacted the Ministry of Aviation to inform them that the aviation labour union is threatening to go on strike, and the content of the letter was given to the Ministry of Aviation.

“On receiving the letter from the Ministry of Labour and Employment, the Ministry of Aviation took it up and they got in touch with the aviation labour union and they premised their intended strike on two major demands; improved condition of service and increase in salary.”

He noted that the Ministry of Aviation had contacted all government agencies responsible for meeting the union’s demands.

He added, “The leadership of Labour and Employment and Aviation are in talks with the leadership of the aviation workers union.

“Authorities made the workers to realise that the aviation sector has not recovered from the strike and aviation fuel scarcity. Therefore, the strike is not necessary and it is counterproductive for them to embark on another strike.

“Discussions are ongoing. The Ministry of Labour and Employment and Aviation are talking to the labour union and the Aviation Ministry has also contacted the presidential committee on salary increase to ensure that the demand of Aviation workers are meant.”

However, the Special Assistant to the Minister of Aviation, James Odaudu, called on the unions to drop their threat and engage in dialogue with the ministry and the CEOs of the aviation agencies concerned.

Speaking on behalf of the minister, the Special Assistant noted that the ministry had been proactive in addressing the concerns of the unions on issues such as the condition of service and other welfare matters, adding that the minister has also ensured that these issues are dealt with decisively, in a bid to create a better working environment for all stakeholders in the aviation industry.

Odaudu further stated that the resort to strike action should not be a permanent feature of the aviation industry.

Instead, the unions should always endeavour to engage with the management more, and seek to resolve issues through dialogue and constructive engagement.

He said, “The ministry and the CEOs of the agencies concerned have been reaching out to the unions to make them understand that the threat is unnecessary.

“The minister has, throughout the tenure of this administration, taken up the issue of CoS and other welfare matters, and has dealt with them decisively.

“The recourse to strikes shouldn’t be a permanent feature of the aviation industry. The Unions should always endeavour to engage with the management more,” he said.

Experts react

Meanwhile, aviation experts have warned aggrieved unions to steer clear of airports and their environs in the fight for their rights, stressing that their actions might lead to flight delays and cancellations.

These actions, they noted, would slow down business activities and cause losses for business owners and other players in the value chain.

The Chief Executive Officer, Centurion Security Limited, Capt. John Ojikutu (retd), speaking in a telephone interview on Sunday, said, “Union workers should not come to the airport to air their grievances. They should rather go to the ministry in charge or regulatory bodies to disrupt activities.

“You can’t enter the airport to disrupt other services, especially private operators, since it is the government they have an issue with. Let them go to FAAN, NAMA headquarters.

“Their actions may affect domestic and international airlines where this country gets 80 per cent of its earnings. The unions must not be allowed to go to the airport to disrupt other services.”

On his part, the Assistant Secretary-General, Aviation RoundTable, Olumide Ohunayo, advised the unions to target areas that would not affect flight, stressing however that it might affect flight operations in Abuja, Lagos and other important routes.

He said, “The unions are free to go on their warning strikes, but of late, we have complained about their activities that disrupt other activities of airport users and passengers. So, they should take their actions to areas that would not impede travel so passengers don’t have to suffer from the policy of the government.

“The demolition and other things planned by the minister toward the tail end of his tenure are really troubling, and I don’t think the strike action will work. The unions have spoken belatedly because these atrocities have been going on for the past four years, and why wait till the last hour to make cries about it?

“If it is not properly planned, there will be flight disruptions, and this will affect operations in Lagos and Abuja and other routes bringing losses to the airlines and other players in the value chain.”

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NNPC Welcomes FG’s Decision To Remove Fuel Subsidy




The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Limited has welcomed the decision of the President Ahmed Bola Tinubu-controlled Federal Government to remove fuel subsidy.

In a press conference in Abuja on Monday, Mele Kyari, the Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) of the corporation charged with harnessing Nigeria’s oil and gas reserves, said the corporation was pleased with the decision of President Tinubu to remove the fuel subsidy.

“We welcome the decision of Mr. President to announce that the subsidy on PMS is over, and this has really been a major challenge for NNPC’s continued operations. We have been funding subsidy from the cash flow of the NNPC since the government is unable to defer the cost of subsidy that is due to the corporation,” Kyari said.

Burdened by the financial cost of importing fuel, Kyari said that the removal of this subsidy will free up funds to make it more commercially viable and do great work for the country.

“And we believe that this will be able to free resources for the NNPC to continue to do the great works that this company will do for our country, and it will allow us to function as a very commercial entity, and we welcome this development,” he said.

The Group Chief Executive Officer has assured Nigerians of the supply of petroleum products, informing Nigerians of an abundance of the products, particularly “Petroleum Motor Spirit product in our country, and there is no reason to panic.”

He urged Nigerians not to engage in panic buying as there would be no potential changes in the prices of petroleum products.

He promised that normalcy in the supply chain would be restored as soon as possible.

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Refinery: We’ll Ask Dangote To Sell Forex At Good Rate — Emefiele



…Says CBN, govt helped him build a refinery
…Raises interest rate to 18.5 %lAs NACCIMA, IPMAN, and others react

With the Dangote Refinery set to deliver its first products in July, the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr Godwin Emefiele, said yesterday that the refinery would be persuaded to sell foreign exchange earnings to banks at a good rate.

Speaking at the end of the 291st Monetary Policy Committee, MPC, meeting in Abuja, Emefiele said his team would engage the promoter of the refinery, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, to ensure that Nigerians benefitted from the venture, adding that the CBN, the Federal Government and, indeed, the country helped him set up the refinery.

The CBN boss expressed optimism that the refinery would ease the foreign exchange scarcity in the country, noting that with local refining, about 20 per cent cost of the total cost of importing petroleum products could be saved, thereby reducing prices in the long run. He, however, said it was time to exit the fuel subsidy regime.

His words: “By the time the Dangote Refinery comes on stream, the price at which it (fuel) will be dispensed will be lower than what it is when we spend dollars to import because there will be no freight cost, no storage and all other logistics expenses.
“So we will be lucky to be having about 20 per cent savings from refining locally, rather than importing.

“But the important thing is that we have reached a point, whether we like it or not when we must exit subsidy.
“Dangote Refinery coming at this time gives us the confidence that even if we exit subsidy, the products will be available. And eventually, the interplay of market forces will also moderate the prices to a level that will help the country.

“So we are expecting that, no doubt, by the time he produces for domestic consumption, the excess will be exported by the numbers that he talked about, which we agree with.

‘’We should be able to save, conservatively, close to about $5 billion to $10 billion in foreign exchange that will come into the country.

“Whether it comes to our reserves or not is not the point, it is the fact that the dollar is available and it will be sold in the domestic market so that customers of banks who need to import do not necessarily resort to CBN for dollars.
“They can go to their banks and Dangote will sell dollars to their banks and we are going to ensure that it is done at a good market rate.

“What I would have loved to say on Monday (at the Dangote Refinery Commissioning) which I didn’t say was that the CBN, the government and the country have helped Dangote to set up that refinery.

“He is a Nigerian; Nigerians must benefit from that venture and we are going to engage him and talk to him and I am sure that being the richest man in Africa, he is going to throw a few crumbs so that the price will be lowered.”

N8trn interventions in 5yrs

Meanwhile, Emefiele revealed that the CBN had given out about N8 trillion in interventions to the private sector in the last five years.

He said: “In the last four to five years, we have done about N8 trillion in interventions to the private sector of the economy. The loans have been granted for 10 years, with a two-year moratorium and at single digit”.

The CBN boss disclosed, however, that going forward, the apex bank would reduce its quasi-fiscal activities.

MPR jerked up to 18.5%

At yesterday’s meeting, the MPC raised the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) to 18.5 per cent from 18 per cent.
Emefiele said the strategy, which started in May last year, had been working as it had moderated the rate of inflation in the economy.

He admitted that the interest rate hike was constraining credit to the real sectors of the economy but that it remained the best option in tackling inflation.

He stated: “The current trend in price development would continue to be monitored by the bank with greater collaboration with fiscal authority to address the drivers of inflation.”

Meanwhile, the committee voted to keep the asymmetric corridor at +100 and -700 basis points around the MPR.

It also retained the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) at 32.5 per cent and equally left the Liquidity Ratio at 30 per cent.

We look forward to cost reduction — IPMAN

Reacting to the CBN’s declaration that Dangote would sell Dollars to banks at good rate, the National President of the Independent Petroleum Association of Nigeria, IPMAN, Elder Chinedu Okoronkwo, could not be reached for comments, yesterday.

But National Operations Controller, IPMAN, Mike Osatuyi, said: “Oil marketers are very happy about the Dangote Refinery. We were tied to the global market for several decades. Now, everyone will be free to patronise the refinery.

‘’We look forward to a significant cost reduction, apparently because freight and shipping costs will not apply anymore.
“With the coming onstream of the plant, the Federal Government will be encouraged to end fuel subsidy. This might be affordable to Nigerians, unlike what it could have been in the past.”

Dangote Refinery comes with multiplier effects — OGSPAN

Similarly, the National President, Oil and Gas Service Providers Association of Nigeria, OGSPAN, Mazi Colman Obasi, said: “On a serious note, Alhaji Aliko Dangote should be commended for making this gigantic investment.

“Every patriotic Nigerian and African should be proud of this refinery. It is very huge and it comes with a lot of multiplier effects for Nigeria.

“I completely agree with the CBN governor that it will culminate in the generation of additional foreign exchange into Nigeria as well as assist the nation to conserve foreign exchange currently expended on massive importation of petroleum products.

“As a major crude oil producer, Nigeria should not have been involved in the importation of petroleum products. ‘’The nation was compelled by circumstances to go into importation. I am happy that this big refinery will enable us reduce or completely stop dependence on the global market.”

CBN should merge forex rates — NACCIMA

Also commenting, Sola Obadimu, Director General, Nigerian Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, NACCIMA, while acknowledging the capacity of Dangote Refinery to generate forex, said CBN should rather focus on merging forex rates.

He said: “Honestly, my take is that CBN should merge these forex rates to avoid whatever might be called ‘good’ or ‘bad’ rates. And that’s the responsibility of CBN – to determine the true value of the Naira. Various exchange rates are basic ingredients for grandiose corruption as we know it.

“Yes, this is a very commendable project that has the capacity to generate forex whenever it starts to export and the proceeds would be convertible to Naira.

“At present, exporters through official channels are complaining that conversion for forex generated from exports is only available to them at official rates which may be unfair, given the fact that they never get enough forex at official rates when they need it either for imported inputs or machinery/parts.

“That’s the danger of dual or multiple exchange rates, particularly when the gaps are too wide as we have it now. But then, the government now has some stakes in the project.

‘’So they may reach some agreements on that level. But it might be preferred to have policies that encourage export activities by all as much as possible.”

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Cbn Raises Interest Rate To 18.5%; Highest In 22 Years




The Central Bank of Nigeria at its just concluded Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting raised its benchmark interest rate (MPR) by 50 basis points to 18.5 per cent, the country’s highest in 22 years.

The CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, made this known during the post-MPC press conference on Wednesday.

In April 2023, headline inflation increased to 22.22 per cent from 22.04 per cent in the previous month, marking its highest level since September 2005.

This is the third time the Mr Emefiele led apex bank will be raising it’s interest rate in 2023.

Nigeria has struggled with a high rate of inflation as well as a declining exchange rate at both the parallel and official markets.

In April 2022, headline inflation reached its highest level in more than 17 years, eroding the purchasing power of the populace.

However, the apex bank has continued to increase the interest rate to combat the continued rising inflation.

People Gazette

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