…Safety remains Aero’s watch word
…Calls for Commercialisation of NAMA
Captain Ado Sanusi, Chief Executive Officer of Aero Contactors, the oldest airline in the country, is one industry player that is well grounded, being that he has top echelon experience in both the public and private sectors of the Aviation industry.
Before his appointment to his current position as MD of Aero Contractors, he was the Deputy Managing Director of Arik Airline (the biggest airline in Nigeria/West Africa), and was a former Managing Director of Nigerian Airspace Management Agency. He made history recently with the landmark achievement of the MRO facility in Aero and the first C-Check of B737 Classic in Nigeria.
The air Captain who loves sailing when he not flying, responded to some questions from Transport Day newspaper, shortly after being named Airline MD of the Year at the 6th Nigeria Transport Awards & Lecture event held at Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos.
During the 6th Nigeria Transport Lecture delivered by the Managing Director of Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), some concerned aviation unionists accused Aero Contractors of not paying some of its staff it laid off, how do you react to this?
The company was under-performing and we didn’t put people on redundancy because we want to put them on redundancy no, we either will have to go down or we cut the cost, and the only way to do it is to cut the cost and reinvent the company. To be sincere with you, putting people on redundancy is a painful thing and more so to do it without payment. We were faced with two options, not to put people on redundancy and cannot pay them, of course, Aero Contractors cannot pay salaries because we had only one aircraft operating. So, it is either I put them on redundancy and let them go look for jobs elsewhere and give them access to pension and gratuity or I leave them in my employment until I get the money to pay them off, and that is increasing the liability, because every month is another salary that I cannot pay. So I have to make the painful decision.
Now Aero Contractors is not the first company to have laid off workers without paying them off, and we did not say we are not paying, in fact we have started paying, we will pay some at the end of this month and we will pay some at the end of next month and we will continue to do so as soon as we are able to bail more aircraft for full operations, we will be able to clear the redundancy but mind you the redundancy is about N1.8 billion, close to N2B, and you know is not small money. We pray that by God’s grace before the end of the year, we will be able to pay off. Remember, it is a sacrifice the workers have made and we appreciate and I hope they understand, if the company is shut down completely, we will not be here speaking about the redundancy, so we really need Aero Contractors to survive. As you know, Aero Contractors is almost 60 years old, with a long history, likes of Kenya, South Africa airways.
You mentioned that when you came in, Aero Contractors had only one Airplane?
Yes. When I came we had only one plane and I went all the way to three airplanes and two helicopters making five. Then, during that period, we did C-check, we caught up 737 and we were reduced to two airplanes. Currently we have 2 airplanes, because we are doing another C-Check, and 2 helicopters making it a total number of 4.
Did you agree that a company that can successfully do a C-check can assemble Airplanes?
Yes. C-check is a detailed inspection check where you strip an airplane for thorough investigation. If you can strip an airplane, I can easily assemble it. There say necessity is the mother of invention, as I told you, we did not have money to do a C-Check abroad, and we need to do a turn around, to make money and be able to pay redundancy. Because it was our first time, we entered into agreement with South African, they advised us, and we had a successful c-check. And we had technical partners.
At what point would you say Aero Contractors has come back?
It is the time when I am able to pay up my liabilities to all staff and my creditors, at that point, I will say Aero Contractors has come back. What we are trying to do now is stabilization of the company and like I told you earlier, once we are done with the airplanes under C-check and come back with 4 airplanes and bring in some planes from France, and take our position as the leading airline in Nigeria, from there, stabilization has taken its effect.
Why do you think passengers should use Aero Contractors?
First and foremost, we are a sincere service provider passengers should look out for. Secondly, Aero Contractors is always on time to deliver, we are reliable and safety conscious. Another reason why passengers should fly Aero Contractors is that we are the cheapest.
You were chosen as the Airline Managing Director of the year, what is your reaction?
I was humbled on that but I didn’t know that people have been following the progress we have made in Aero Contractors, but for me, it so a team work and I dedicate the award to all staff of Aero Contractors both the ones on redundancy and the ones that are in for their hard work because without them one man cannot achieve it alone.
What is your staff strength?
We were up to 1000 before the redundancy, but now we are about 400 and after the C-check, the number will increase again.
What is your source of revenue, the air plane or the helicopter?
As at now the helicopter is our main source of revenue, with about 80%.
What is your view on taxation in the aviation sector?
There is need to carry out tax review on the money airlines pay and there is also a need to properly restructure the service providers owned by the government. For example, I believe that NAMA should be commercialized to be able to fund herself properly and I also believe that airlines should be well represented in NAMA. NCAA should be funded separately not from the airlines ticket sales. NCAA as regulator should have enough funds to regulate efficiently. Now if the airlines are down, that means that the NCAA will not function again because there will be no room for them to make money. It is obvious to say that the taxes are transferred to passengers but then what is the fate of the airlines when they shrink because of increase in fare and passengers decide to patronize the buses.
Aside Tracon, what were your other achievements when you were the MD of NAMA?
We did a lot, in fact, we initiated the geo-survey of the entire country. We initiated the recently concluded performance base navigation. We re-initiated a capacity building for air traffic controllers-PPL. We initiated a total radio coverage, Aeronautical information services, initiated the commercialisation of NAMA, all these we did when I was with NAMA.
What is your view on the local aviation policies?
Our problem is not the policies. In fact we have a lot of policies, good ones for that matter, but the problem is how to implement them and its consistency. I think this present administration has realized that aviation is one of the catalysts needed to grow the economy and they are now bringing the aviation sector to the forefront with good policies.
Beyond your office, how do you relax?
I love reading a lot and I love sailing.