An Eye on West Africa

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Travelling around Nigeria has never been easy, but since the tragic crash of a Dana Air flight back in June, it has got even more complicated and expensive.

Two major airlines, Dana and Air Nigeria, are no longer operating on domestic routes – the reason for the former is obvious, but the latter is more murky, with all sorts of tales bandied about. That leaves two main carriers – Arik Air and AeroContractors, trying to fill the gap, and struggling to do so. Delays are so normal that, when I check in, I don’t ask “is it on time”, but rather, “how long is the delay?”. 

One problem is that the airlines don’t have enough aircraft, and whilst we welcome the opening of new airports in places such as Uyo (Akwa Ibom State) and Asaba (Delta State), the airlines are overstretched in their attempts to cover all the route permutations. 

Airlines in Nigeria come and go – there’s a whole list of ‘has-beens’ such as ADC, Sosoliso, Okada and Oriental. Dana was relatively new and we recently saw First Nation come and go. IRS and Chanchangi operate on a few of the main routes, but of all the carriers, I tend to favour AeroContractors. Their fares are more reasonable, especially if you book ahead, but, most importantly, it’s their 100% safety record.

There’s very little to be done about the lack of flights and rubbish service, and long distance road transport is fraught with problems, including some of the most appalling ‘highways’ you can imagine. The quality of the driving doesn’t help, either.

It’s a big country, Nigeria, and we need better transportation. Some of the roads are being rebuilt, but experience says that unless they’re using one of the big civil contractors to do the work, they won’t last for long. The economy needs better transportation – what’s the point of growing tomatoes if you can’t get them to market? For now, we have to grin and bear it, and pray for the government to do something about it – or allow the private sector to do so. Full marks to the Lekki Concession Company for what they have done in Lagos, constructing a proper road, to ease the congestion on Victoria Island.

Trevor Ward – MD: W Hospitality Group

www.w-hospitalitygroup.com

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