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Fuel Scarcity disrupts airlift, leaves pilgrims stranded in Saudi Arabia

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AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE

The scarcity of aviation fuel yesterday bit harder on local operations, as airlines had difficulties carrying out both scheduled and chartered operations.

The Guardian learnt that the development has affected the ongoing airlift of hajj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia, with some of the visitors still stranded in the holy land.

For instance, no fewer than 265 passengers of a charter operator, Skypower Express Airlines, are currently delayed in Saudi Arabia.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Skypower Express Airlines, Capt. Muhammed Joji, confirmed the development.

Joji said attempts to buy fuel in Lagos and Kano were futile, but eventually bought the product at very exorbitant rate, which enabled the airline to continue with the second leg of the exercise.

He said at least 265 pilgrims that were enlisted on the carrier were airlifted out of Saudi Arabia on Thursday night with a Boeing 777 aircraft leased from a local operator.

He further explained that another batch of 265 pilgrims would be airlifted back to Nigeria on Saturday (today).

Joji added that the scarcity of the product in the local scene was affecting flight operations in the industry and called on the government to make the product available to airlines.

“It is unfortunate that we don’t have fuel anywhere in Nigeria. I think this is sabotage. How can a country has three refineries and can’t get aviation fuel to supply to its airlines. Apart from local operators, other foreign carriers operating into Nigeria are equally faced with the same challenge. It’s high time we settled this issue one and for all, ” he said.

Chief Operating Officer of an aviation fuel marketing company, however, dismissed the scarcity, saying “any airline that is ready to pay for service will not have a short supply.”


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