March 25, (THEWILL) – The Group Managing Director of Finchglow Travels, Mr Bankole Bernard, has observed that the reason most State Governments embark on certain projects is that none of them wants to continue “any legacy project not completed by their predecessors”.
Speaking with aviation Journalists in Lagos during the week, Bankole pointed out that these State Governments would rather initiate new projects of their own such as the Agro-Cargo Airport Project because the people will always ask them what they did while in office.
Describing such projects as a misplaced priority, Bankole said, “that is another misplacement of priority. Agro-cargo airport is a capital project. It is easier to make money and know when you embark on a capital project. None of them wants to come in and continue on any legacy project not completed by their predecessors because the people will ask you ‘what did you do’?”
Bankole, therefore, advised State Governments embarking on such projects to do the right things and set their priorities right as the right things should be done first.
Stating that there is nothing actually wrong if these State Governments get their priority right, Bankole said you cannot be in a state where all the interstate roads are bad and agro is the priority.
He also noted that you can not be in a state where all the schools are mushrooms and teachers’ salaries are not paid, then, agro is what is important.
“The government needs to get their priorities right. The concept is a beautiful one, but it is about setting priority right,” he emphasised.
On trapped funds of foreign airlines in Nigeria, which have hit over $743 million, Bankole posited that it is very unfortunate Nigeria cannot simply comply with the rules of the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA).
Condemning the situation, the travel and hospitality expert, who described trapped funds in Nigeria as fraudulent, said, “If you say that you do not have funds for them at the official rate as it were, if you are going to make them pay for a premium, they will sell the ticket at a premium and they will be able to repatriate their funds, but you don’t give them at the official rate and they are unable to repatriate their money.
“Today, the rate at which we are issuing tickets is N551 to a dollar. Is that the official rate? No, but that is the rate we are issuing tickets, which is moving closer to the black market. This means the issue of trapped funds would not have been if it had been properly managed.”
Bankole pointed out that the funds became trapped because Nigeria was not ready to give the foreign airlines at the official rate.
Explaining further, the GMD queried, “Why didn’t you come out all these while and tell them the rate you would give the airlines so that they can sell their tickets at particular rates as long as it is official? After all, we have multiple exchange rates. So, what will make this one different? Then, there will not be an issue of trapped funds and people will be able to do their business and the agony that you are putting a lot of travellers to will not be there.
“Now that we have started to sell tickets at N551 to a dollar, I can tell you that the issue of trapped funds will move as fast as possible and it will come to zero. To fly to London now, it’s about a million naira and that is the cheapest,” Bankole added.
Bankole, however, gave a pass mark while assessing the performance of the outgoing government in the aviation industry in the past 8 years.
He said, “It is always easier for you to make an assessment of the government’s performance when you are on the other side of the seat. From this perspective, he has done his bit. Today, you and I are talking about the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility, but was it there about eight years ago? We have seen a lot of improvements at the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria. Within the period, the college acquired a lot of simulators. You can take it for granted. Also, in the last eight years, we don’t have aircraft accidents to any commercial airline. It is very easy for us to take it for granted.
“In that same eight years, we are talking about cargo airports across the country. Let us remember that somebody gave them approval for that. If the government did not buy into the idea, the cargo airports won’t happen,” he added.