Part of the federal government’s strategies to stem air accidents in the country is to urgently negotiate with investors for the building of a Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility in Nigeria.
Government is also planning to gradually weed off old aircraft operating in the country, especially on commercial service, THISDAY has learnt.
The initial plan is to build the facility in Lagos, but government may also partner Akwa Ibom to complete and empower the MRO facility the state is building at the Uyo airport, which is over 60 per cent completed.
Lufthansa had earlier indicated interest to partner Arik Air to build such facility in Lagos or Abuja but wants the federal government’s approval and endorsement of given conditions by the company, which include full support and protection of the facility when established in the country.
Many industry experts have attributed the relatively high rate of accidents in Nigeria – in spite of high safety regulatory efforts – to poor maintenance of ageing aircraft due to lack of local MRO facility and some airlines cutting corners by deferring maintenance checks because of the cost of ferrying aircraft overseas for repair.
THISDAY learnt that government would not be involved in the funding of the project but interested investors would be given land and enabling environment to urgently establish one in the country, and because the country is in dire need of the facility, government may invite maintenance organisations to come and establish the facility here.
The planned MRO facility to be built by Lufthansa and Arik must be endorsed by the federal government as Chairman of the airline, Joseph Arumemi Ikhide, said, after Arik agreed with Lufthansa to build the maintenance facility.
“Lufthansa set some conditions, which they feel the government must abide by. We have to work with NCAA and they have to keep it to International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) standards and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standards. So it is going to benefit the whole country. Arik itself will be a customer of that MRO so there is going to be a difference between Arik airline and the MRO.”
Government is expected to look into the conditions and if approved, Lufthansa may build the facility in Lagos. Besides Lufthansa, Embraer is considering building such facility for its aircraft in Africa and it is contemplating citing the project in Nigeria.
The Financial Director of the Brazil aircraft manufacturing company, Jose Anthonio, told THISDAY in San Jose, Brazil when Embraer sold its 1000 E-Jet series of aircraft that the company wants to expand its business in Africa and Nigeria would be its centre point where it contemplates building MRO facility.
“African market is very important to us. We have about 30 E jets in Africa; also in addition to that we have these smaller jets, 145, 135. And we are seeing the African market as our next big market in commercial aviation in the sense that we have to go with training, with warehouse and with MRO facilities, so we want to penetrate more in Africa. Nigeria is a very important country, a very large country. Around 160 million people, right? It is a lot of market for us so we are looking towards Nigeria as well,” Antonio said.
It is believed that with MRO facility located in Nigeria airlines would save huge resources that otherwise would have been spent in ferrying aircraft overseas for maintenance.