By Pearl Ngwama, Lagos
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called for aviation-specific financial relief measures from the government of Nigeria to address the severe impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the air transport sector.
Air transport has ground to a halt in order to stop the spread of COVID-19; this, with its attendant direct impact on jobs and companies in aviation, related industries including tourism, hospitality and trade have been hit hard. All these play an essential role in creating jobs and powering economies.
Prior to the crisis, aviation contributed $1.7 billion to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and supported 241,000 jobs while IATA has estimated that the COVID-19 crisis puts those jobs at risk and some $900 million of the country’s GDP.
The Nigerian government has introduced broad economic relief packages to mitigate the devastation caused by COVID-19 but IATA now urged the government to implement specific financial relief measures for aviation to ensure that, the sector will be capable of driving the recovery.
IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East, Muhammad Albakri, said: “Nigeria has announced general relief measures for sectors affected by COVID-19, but not specifically for aviation. Given the importance of air transport for Nigeria’s economy and connectivity, the government must not let aviation fail. The industry faces a liquidity crisis. Without a viable aviation sector Nigeria’s eventual recovery from COVID-19 will be longer and even more painful. Aviation-specific financial relief measures are urgently needed as a matter of survival.”
He said the government should consider implementing some or all of the following relief measures: Direct financial support to passenger and cargo carriers; loan guarantees and support for the corporate bond market by the government or Central Bank and tax relief – rebates on payroll taxes paid to date in 2020 and/or an extension of payment terms for the rest of 2020.
Albakri added that there should be financial relief on airport and air traffic control (ATC) charges and taxes; reduction, waiver or deferral of government-imposed taxes and fees as well as foreign exchange availability
“As the aviation industry looks to restart, it is important that key regional players like Nigeria are ready and able. Aviation is a strategic pillar for social and economic development. Supporting aviation now will mean that Nigeria’s economy can pick up from where it stopped and drive forward,” he said.