Stakeholders in the aviation sector have described as outrageous and false the claim that foreign airlines plan to sack over 2,000 workers, insisting that the airlines do not have such number on their staff.
Reacting to the issue, aviation consultant and former corporate affairs manager of Nigeria Airways, Chris Aligbe, insisted that there is no way the foreign airlines will have up to 2,000 Nigerian workers.
“This has been the issue we have been handling for some time now because these people come into Nigeria and employ mostly foreigners, while our own people are not considered. Now they claim that they have about 2,000 staff; from where did they come from?
“I don’t know where this story came from but all I can say is that all the staffers of the foreign airlines are not up to 1, 500, and this is the reason why we are calling for a national carrier so that no airline can hold us to ransom,” Aligbe told our reporters on phone yesterday night.
According to an industry watcher, who gave his name simply as Ade, “the foreign airlines contribute nothing to Nigeria’s economy whereas domestic airlines, such as Arik Air, provides over 2,000 direct employment for Nigerians. The foreign airlines employ just a handful of Nigerians, mostly as contract staff.”
He stressed that as a solution to the problem, the government would have to put in place a ‘fly Nigeria Act’ that would make it mandatory for government officials to fly only Nigerian airlines to destinations where they operate.
“The government needs to protect the local airlines from the domination of foreign airlines.
Foreign airlines are highly protected by their respective governments but this is not the case with local airlines,” he noted.
Also, one of the workers with one of the foreign airlines who pleaded for anonymity said: “It is very unfair to claim that the foreign airlines have over 2,000 workers. What we have here are mainly casual workers, who are not full staff and when you calculate the total number of all of the full staffers, I know we will not be up to 2,000.”
Foreign airlines stifle growth of indigenous carriers through increased fares on various international routes they operate.
Findings revealed that despite the fall in the value the naira for sometime, fares charged by Arik Air remained almost same and, in some cases, reduced significantly.
Meanwhile, the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) has maintained that there would be a major labour crisis if the foreign airlines in the country sack their Nigerian workers and possibly stop operating in the country.
The general secretary of the union, Comrade Olayinka Abioye, yesterday said that the foreign airlines operating in Nigeria, numbering up to 30 and employing about 2,000 workers, remained major employers of labour in the aviation sector.
Abioye said, “NUATE being the only union in partnership with foreign airlines has clear information about the situation of the airlines at the moment. The airlines have not been able to repatriate their monies for about one year now. Repatriation of earnings is not something that is done monthly. Usually, the airlines will wait for a period of time, but they have been caught up in the CBN policy.
“In fact, I can tell you that many of the airlines are considering stopping operations in Nigeria.
An airline that comes into Nigeria four times a week is now coming once or twice and the ones that were using B777, you see them now using B737. This tells of some serious issues.”
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