How to ensure that the dozens of Bilateral Air services Agreements (BASAs) that Nigeria signed with other countries become beneficial to the nation’s economy, formed part of stakeholder discussions at the 23rd edition of the Annual Conference of League of Airport & Aviation Correspondents (LAAC) held yesterday at Radisson Blu Hotel, Lagos with the theme “Boosting Aviation Investment Through Policy.”
In his speech, Chairman of the occasion and Managing Director of Medview Airlines, Alhaji Muneer Bankole said “there should be a follow-up by appropriate regulatory agencies. Bilateral Air Services Agreements (BASA) with other major European and some Asian Countries need to be urgently reviewed to reflect the interest of local carriers. Appropriate policy statement regulating double taxation needs to be quickly looked into in conjunction with the exorbitant cut-throat charges levied against Nigeria carriers to our various West African routes, particularly francophone states.”
According to him, “In Nigeria, the expansion of air services is a necessary condition for development and diversification of the nation’s economy away from oil to a more diversified export based natural resources, including tourism that can be boosted under more nationalistic and patriotic policy regulation, hence LAAC Conference of this year is timely and constructive.”
“There is a need to address the issue of Bilateral Air Services Agreements. Nigerian carriers should engage foreign carriers and ensure that the required standards are met in their operations,” said Capt Fola Akinkuotu, Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA). He added that proper competition between Nigerian airlines and others on the BASA routes is possible if the required standards are met by all parties.
The Chief Executive Officer of TopBrass Aviation, Capt. Roland Iyayi said: “When it comes to international operations, the government is the custodian of the bilateral agreements and the multilateral agreements. Those agreements are not just pieces of papers. They are negotiations. What it means is; lets take British Airways for instance, between Nigeria and the UK, you have what we call a multilateral agreement, which is why you have British Airways and Virgin Atlantic but out of Nigeria, you really don’t have any operator per say. We had Medview run into trouble. It was operating out of Gatwick. Ideally, when you negotiate a multilateral, you will insist that each country must grant the designated operator prime access to the major market and not the secondary market. So, Medview going to London, we should have negotiated in the multilateral that Medview must be given good slots, not just slots, good slots at Heathrow airport. It must be part of the multilateral agreement. So that is the role of the government because if you say we have designated you fly, fly to where? At the end of the day, Medview started going to Gatwick. Gatwick is not the primary airport that Nigerians would want to fly into. So, it affects the market share that Medview is able to corner. But if you put in there in the multilateral a policy direction, that will show that if you are giving British Airways one, you will give Medview one, it changes the dynamics. But when you allow them to dictate, because they will say well, this is what we do in our country, if that is the case, then you can fly to maybe Minna instead of Lagos. Until you give a Nigerian carrier Heathrow airport, then we are not talking. That should be the stance of government and it should be the same thing in every market in international arena. That is what you call aeropolitics. But the airlines can’t play it. It is the government that can play it”
President of Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative, Mr. Gbenga Olowo corroborated Iyayi’s position saying “If we give birth to a national carrier tomorrow, and the ministry or the CAA do not follow the objective to the later, and they just say you are designated to China or to London without influencing the way things happen at the other end with government influence, that airline won’t survive.”
Mr. Nick Fadugba, President of African Business Aviation Association (AfBAA) said “a situation in which over 90% of international air traffic to and from Nigeria is carried by non-Nigerian airlines is damaging to the economy in several ways, such as the huge capital flight from Nigeria, the continued deterioration of the Nigerian aviation industry and the loss of skilled aviation employment opportunities.
I support the Federal Government’s plan to launch a new national carrier with minority Government shareholding – if it is done transparently and skillfully. Of course, there are many potential risks and success will take time.
To succeed, the proposed new national airline needs a sound business plan, strategic industry partners, adequate funding, an experienced management team, well-trained staff, a fleet of modern aircraft, a comprehensive route network, on-time performance and good customer service. Good governance and no government involvement in the management of the airline will be essential.
The Government should also create a conducive environment for other local airlines to flourish in Nigeria alongside the new national carrier.”
Fadugba added that BASAs with non-African states have to be reviewed on the basis of reciprocity, as access to the Nigerian market has a significant economic value.