- Domestic Airlines Groan Under Slanted Bilateral Air Agreement
Bilateral Air Service Agreement signed by Nigeria with a number of countries has become a major problem for domestic airlines expected to be major beneficiaries of such arrangement, stakeholders in the nation’s aviation sector have said.
Nigeria currently has over 70 BASAs signed with different countries of the world, which enable those countries to fly into the country.
But domestic airlines that have the capacity to fly to countries under BASA have complained that they are being denied entry into the countries, especially within the West African coast.
The bilateral agreement between Nigeria and another country was expected to pave the way for more direct flights between major cities of both countries on the principle of reciprocity by the designated airlines.
The Chairman of Air Peace, Mr. Allen Onyema, said that countries such as Ivory Coast had refused the airline’s application for a licence to operate into the country.
He said the Federal Government had given the airline the right to fly into other African countries but many of them were not giving operators from Nigeria access.
He said, “For over two years, we are only doing Ghana because other countries have refused to allow us in; Ivory Coast never wanted to answer our request. We had to go to them pleading; they didn’t tell us no; but we later discovered that one particular airline is using them to frustrate Nigerian carriers.
“They see us as a threat; Senegal has not come to see our facilities so they could grant us the approval we requested. We have written to them severally; our chief operating officer spent one week there in Senegal.
“We have gone to Cameroon more than 10 times but nothing positive has happened. We are ready to go into other African countries. We have the equipment to represent this country proudly; but they are not allowing us.”
An aviation security expert, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (Retd.), said the industry had been dealing with many infringements by foreign airlines on domestic routes but the aviation authority had not been able to do something about it.
He added, “These airlines include Ethiopian Airlines in particular flying to almost the five designated Nigeria international airports and could include Kaduna if the feelers one is getting from Abuja is true. On the regional international routes now are Asky and Rwanda Air, both flying commercial flights to Lagos and Abuja from Lome in Togo.
“No Nigerian airline has been designated to reciprocate these flights yet we want them to grow the industry and the nation economy. No one in the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority is reckoning with the consequences of these flights on the domestic airlines earnings and the nation economy.”
Ojikutu said the NCAA under the CAA 2006 and in particular, Part XI Section 37(1) had the power to perform air transportation licensing functions in the manner which is considered best to ensure that Nigerian registered airlines could compete effectively with other airlines providing air transport services on international routes.
He however said this section was not being utilised in favour of the domestic airlines, adding that domestic airlines would not develop when the exclusive market on domestic and regional routes remained open to foreign carriers.
A source in the industry, who spoke on condition of anonymity, however said that some domestic airlines contributed to the problem they had with other countries.
“In some cases, some of them do not begin operations two years after they have been designated to begin flight to a particular country probably because they do not have the equipment or adequate manpower; and don’t forget that those countries also have their rules,” the source said.
The General Manager, Corporate Affairs of NCAA, Mr. Sam Adurogboye, said domestic airlines had the right to report errant countries to the Nigerian government for appropriate action.
“Airlines should not appear as if they are helpless; they can make official complaints to the Ministry of Aviation, which will in turn work with that of foreign affairs to tackle the problem because it is an agreement between two countries,” he said.
According to him, the NCAA cannot handle the matter alone, except it is mandated to do so by the government.