The FAAN-Air Peace drama explains why foreign investors are still on the run
Late last week, an Air Peace flight scheduled to take off at from the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos was blocked by the workers of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN). According to FAAN workers, Air Peace owed it N7 million which the workers wanted paid immediately.
The baffling part of the drama, however, was that Air Peace had actually paid the said sum and was only owing N1.8 million, a paltry sum which according to regulations could be accrued for as long as the airlines were operating flights. The FAAN management apologized but that was after Air Peace had lost its flight and possibly many customers. This saga shows why despite the reforms targeted at wooing foreign investors, not much is being achieved.
- A biased, chaotic system: The total sum FAAN claimed was owed it was N8.8 million. In the aviation industry, this is such an insignificant sum. In fact, Chairman and CEO of the airline, Chief Allen Onyema, lamented that an airline that owed the government over N11billion was allowed to operate that morning but Air Peace was temporary shut down over N7million naira.
- Lawlessness still reigns: The question of who authorized the action should be given special attention because if the workers acted of their volition, then they should be brought to book. Any problems FAAN may have with Air Peace should be discussed between their respective managements. Also, without an express order from the headquarters to stop an airline’s operation, what right do the workers have to do so?
- Dialogue is the last option in Nigeria: Common sense would have dictated that the workers first get their facts right, confirming with both their management and the airline’s before jeopardizing the business of a client. However, as displayed in some other cases, in Nigeria, action before thinking is the vogue.
- Customer service is still an abstract concept to FG workers: A critical component of Ease of doing business remains how people are treated. During the fracas, the Enugu Airport Manager, Mr. Mgbemena Orjiako allegedly called the CEO of Air Peace a riff-raff. Although the manager claimed to have mentioned the word in a different context, the very mention of the word in many other countries is enough to get the manager laid off. In Nigeria, it’s just reason to get into another argument with your client.
- Apologies that are too late: After the airline had lost money and customers to the fracas, Acting General Manager, Public Affairs, FAAN, Henrietta Yakubu, apologized to the airline. How though, would this undo all the harm, directly and indirectly, done to Air Peace’s business?
Given all the above points, if you were a foreign investor with some millions of dollars to put into a business enterprise, would you consider putting them into a system with the above characteristics?