On Saturday, 7th May 2022, activities at Benin Airport were at a feverish pace. Passengers flocked in from Delta state amidst tales of an impending shutdown of airline operations by May 9th, 2022. Earlier last week, NUATE, ANAP, and AUPCTRE had sent word out that they were set for a two-day strike on behalf of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON). The plan was to use the strike to protest against the high cost of aviation fuel, the attendant high cost of operations, and the condition of service by Nigerian airline operators.
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But things fell apart when seven airlines refused to suspend operations during the strike period. They claimed they were in solidarity with AON, and they were firmly behind the need to resolve the issues leading up to the planned strike. However, they felt sustaining a strike action would not be in the best interest of their customers who had already booked their flights. And also, the drop in revenue during the period of the strike may cause more harm than good for operations. While these were going on, the Federal government was busy lobbying foreign airlines to continue operations, regardless.
The planned strike was a nationwide strike for all local operators in the Nigerian Aviation industry because they share the perplexing issue of aviation fuel availability and affordability. The cost of Aviation fuel (JET A1) has risen over time from N190 to N700. This caused airlines’ operational costs to rise from 40% to 95% and the unit price for flight tickets to rise as high as N120,000. This acute jump in aviation fuel prices within the last two years prompted AON’s announcement of a two-day warning strike. The aim was to get the Federal government more involved even though the ministry of aviation has played a vital role in assisting airline operators since the pandemic in various ways.
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After deliberations with the Federal government on Sunday, 8th May 2022, AON suspended the strike action. Even as of Monday 9th May, Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, was less busy than usual, with only a few passengers at the check-in terminal. Without a united front, the effort would have been defeated. Also, it was in the interest of the nation for the strike to be suspended to avoid a meltdown in both the economic and security sectors of the nation. According to a statement by the president of AON, Abdulmunaf Yunusa Sarina, the government had promised, “to urgently intervene in the crises being faced by airlines due to the astronomic and continuously rising cost of JetA1.”
While the decision to go on strike to draw attention to a cause seemed necessary, it is important to note that strike action should be a last resort. Currently, the Education sector is grounded by multiple strike actions. Just on the heels of strike actions by the Health sector; the common denominator being everyone imploring the government to act in one capacity or another. Leaving the masses at the mercy of the system. This is no way to run a country.
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We can only hope that with the aviation sector’s crisis averted, a lasting solution favorable to all parties would emerge.
The Guardian Ng
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