The Managing Director of Darma Air Services, who is also the Deputy President of the Kano Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, Ambassador Usman Darma speaks on his discontent about the National Hajj Commission, the travel industry among others.
Yours is one of the prominent travel agencies in Kano. How have you been contributing to the economic growth in the state?
As a travel agency, we are contributing economically by providing jobs to the youth, we also try to encourage our people to go outside to see what it is about. And the same time, we make our customers feel comfortable outside the country.
So far, what are the challenges you have been facing in your business?
There are a lot of challenges. Honestly, the Federal Government of Nigeria is not protecting the interests of Nigerians, because we have a serious challenge with the people that are coming to Nigeria to invest, they are not here for investments, they are here for trading like Nigerians which is not good.
Also, we don’t have strong energy in Nigeria. Number three, the finance facility from any bank, you cannot get below 10 percent, and if you argue with the charges, it will reach 12%. How can you compete with someone who is getting 2 or 3%? It is not possible. The government has to wake up, the government has to listen, adjust what is possible so that the country will be safe, so that the insecurity will go down because whenever you make your people engage in jobs, the crime rate will go down.
If you have to advice government on other areas, which other areas will you advise government on?
Whenever there is any policy that affect the Nigerian people, they must not put politics first because whenever you are in power, you belong to Nigerians not on a particular party. So when you are coming with any policy, you have to place the merits above political party.
As the Deputy President of the Chamber in Kano, what have been your contributions to the chamber in Kano?
We have made a lot of contributions in the chamber but in our city chamber, I’m in charge of the trade fair. Before I came onboard, the Kano trade fair was not like this because the trade fair is an avenue where you can bring the skilled and unskilled together in one umbrella, a trade fair is a place where you can showcase what you have, in terms of knowledge, in terms of the projections to get the partners. We are encouraging a lot of people from outside to come to Nigeria to participate and showcase what they have in order to make it marketable in Nigeria, and we implore our Nigerian brothers to showcase what they have so that the market will be wider for what they are doing.
Does your activities cover Hajj operations?
Yes, we do Hajj operations. We had a challenge with the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria. I have a challenge from the chairman because I am saying what they was doing is not right, the hajj exercise is a religious matter not a profitable business. The National commission are not there to generate revenue, these are the people who wanted to go to Hajj to do the exercise which they believe is one of the pillars of Islam which we believe in and most of the people who are going are in the lower class, they are the people who save for three, four even up to ten years in order to do what they believe in. So I don’t see a reason why these people will be charged so exorbitantly, that is why I’m calling the attention of the government to look into this matter to see how they can solve it.
All these problems is what contribute to make Hajj expensive because of selfish interests, because of the people who are there, they have gone to make money, and they are there to murder people economically. So if the government is serious, they have to look at the grievance of people and try and solve it.
As a travel agency, do you belong to the travel agency association?
I belong to associations, I am a member of NANTA (National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies), I am an IATA (International Air Transport Association) accredited agent.
What is your view on the proliferation of travel agencies that are not rightly accredited?
Every Nigerian has a right to create a business but there must be a condition to operate. The IATA licence is not mandatory but it is an advantage, but what is mandatory for anyone to operate a business is a CAC (Corporate Affairs Commission) licence, when you have a CAC licence, you are covered to operate the business covered in your certificate.
The Hajj Commission licence is not necessary for any tour operator when it is going to do Hajj. You have a passenger, you are going to Mecca, I can look for Mr. A who has the licence from the commission and get a merger from him and can issue a ticket from my end or I can find Mr. A who has licence from a commission. If he has a slot of 50, maybe I need another 50, I can find him to make a merger to operate successfully, because even the charges to the tour operators is too exorbitant right from the licence and other logistics. And all these money that has been charged will at the end go to the passenger because whatever the cost, you will divide it and at the end put it as an expense.
As an accredited travel agency, what would be your advice to the would-be traveler out there that wants to travel?
If you want to travel, you have to look to find out the real travel agents. A serious travel agent must have an office, it must have certain requirements, it must have a CAC certificate which is the number one certificate that you are allowed to operate that particular business. Anyone that doesn’t have an office, you should not be dealing with him. You should find a reliable agency.