GIA MD Says Board Not Consulted on Ground Handling by NIRO Handling Company Ltd

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By: Kebba AF Touray

Managing Director of the Gambia International Airline (GIA) has said they have not been consulted in respect of the ground handling contract arrangement with NIRO Handling Company Limited at the Banjul International Airport.

Members of the GIA Board made this disclosure at the National Assembly on Tuesday ,30 January 2024 during their interface with Members of the Public Enterprise Committee (PEC), for the consideration of their activity report and financial statements.

Providing responses to the question as to whether the board knew about the said arrangement, the Managing Director of GIA, Numo K Sanneh,said: “We were not consulted about the contract arrangement for NIRO Handling Company Limited to take over ground handling activities at the Banjul International Airport.”

He said the initiative planned as a way of opening the ground handling space for the entry of a private entity, but that no consultation was made and that the GIA was not involved in terms of their intentions to liberalize their operations with the coming in of a new competitor. That as far as they are aware, no formal engagement or consultation was done regarding the said development.

On whether they have a national competitor or various competitors on the ground at Banjul International Airport, MD Sanneh explained that in other jurisdictions, ground handling falls on the country where it is operating, but protective business lines in certain jurisdictions, because one has to look at the interest of the country and in this situation, they were looking at the passenger volumes that come to the country, and the size of the industry on whether or not it can handle many players for the ground handling space available.

He said the economic aspect is also taken into consideration for those countries that usually consider ground handling, but invariably for those countries that are at the same par with the Gambia, normally ground handling is centralized as a government activity. He said ground handling constitutes almost 9 percent of their work, and if that is compromised, it means their performance is adversely affected

The Board Chairperson of GIA, Mam Sait Jallow, said to satisfy the security requirements and satisfactory compliance of operations depends on the regulator, but said this might not be the issue as such until the GIA is found wanting. However, he said that for the GIA,they are deprived of revenue and financial base as at now, and that this can compromise their ability to comply with the security requirements.

“We cannot argue that if you introduce a new entrant it will pose a security threat. That is up to the regulator, but this situation is weakening the GIA and putting them at a disadvantaged position incapable of meeting their requirements, and this should be defended. Already this year we have seen a big incursion into the market share in ground handling, meaning that 40 percent of our revenue has been lost already and this is likely to increase. What we, as a board, has agreed is that officially, this has to be tabled before government, and we have requested that management writes to the Ministry and copy the relevant authorities regarding the situation and the adverse repercussions it can have on the company,” chairperson Jallow said.

The committee members during the interface urged the GIA Management and Board to work in unison to take the necessary steps to remedy the situation, and urged them to engage the relevant Ministry and committee, so that collectively, the matter can be resolved.

The Committee adopted the report with reservations that the issues be aligned with the service rule and to resolve the year in-year out anomalies and the highly rated adverse findings by end 2024.

For the information of the readers, NIRO Handling Company Limited is incorporated as an Aviation Ground Handling Services Provider under the Gambia Companies Act of 2013. The team offers a service package tailored to meet each client’s specific requirements and needs at the Banjul International Airport, and provides all-inclusive ground handling services through authorized ground handlers and flight support services.