Aviation ground handlers have urged the Federal Government to grant duty waivers, special foreign exchange windows and other incentives to help operators cushion the harsh economic realities.

This is as the Aviation Ground Handling Association of Nigeria (AGHAN) said that it has achieved over 60 per cent success in the implementation of the new safety threshold-handling rate approved by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) in the last quarter of 2021.

At a courtesy visit to regulatory agencies in Abuja recently, Chairman of AGHAN, Olaniyi Adigun, lamented that the handling companies needed government support to remain in business.

Adigun specifically called for customs duty waivers, easy access to forex and other incentives for the handling sub-sector of the economy. He noted that the handling companies could not be isolated from the ecosystem of the aviation industry.

He decried that due to the recent downturn in the economy occasioned by the fall of naira against major currencies, the handling companies were struggling to acquire modern Ground Support Equipment (GSE) to augment their services.

Adigun argued that the approval of a special window for forex and removal of customs duties for the handlers would further ensure safety in the industry as funds saved from these would be expended on training, retraining, attraction and retention of quality personnel for the sub-sector.

On the remaining 40 per cent in the implementation of the new safety threshold handling rate, Adigun said serious negotiations were ongoing with airlines to comply with the directive and expressed hope that they would comply very soon.

He commended the commitments of both the leadership of NCAA and Accident Investigation Bureau Nigeria (AIB-N) at revamping the sector.

“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, we 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 is 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,” he said.

In his response, Director-General of the NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu, said that the handling companies were part of the aviation safety chain, even though their critical activities are often not known to air travellers.

Nuhu said without the ground handling companies the ecosystem might be compromised, adding that the regulatory agency would work for the continuous entrenchment of air safety in Nigeria.

According to him, the ground handling companies could not be insulated from the challenges in the industry, stressing that the neglect of one of the chains could lead to an accident.