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Stakeholders link airlines’ woes abroad to unfavourable pacts, protectionism

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[FILE PHOTO] Nigeria’s Aviation minister Hadi Sirika speaks folloing a press conference at the Farnborough Airshow, south west of London, on July 18, 2018. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

Stakeholders in the aviation industry have attributed the woes confronting Nigeria’s flag carriers on the international front to a number of factors, including unfavourable air pacts, market protectionism and discriminatory flight cuts across Europe and African countries.

They stated that the development was staking the odds against the airlines, which were being frustrated out of business on the international routes.

The operators, contrary to blames that they are weak and too small to compete, said until the Federal Government rose up to demand fair play across board and support local operators, the foreign carriers would continue to dominate the Nigerian market to the detriment of the local industry and the economy at large.

Currently, foreign airlines have about 80 per cent share of the local market, flying multiple destinations in the country.

The Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) provides for reciprocity by the number of flights and destinations.

Nigeria, with the second largest market in Africa after South Africa, has at least 90 of such pacts with less than 20 serviced in return by the local carriers.

For instance, one of the flag carriers, Med-View Airlines Plc., until March this year, operated the Lagos-London and Lagos-Dubai routes amid complaints of multiple operational hurdles and alleged stiff resistance.

With the European Union banning its aircraft from operating in the region, and the subsequent lessor’s default, both routes had been suspended till date.

It was the only surviving flight after the exit of Arik Air from the London, New York and Johannesburg routes last year.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Med-View, Muneer Bankole, affirmed that the routes were tough, adding that the foreigners would stop at nothing to resist attempts at competition.

Chairman and CEO of Air Peace, Allen Onyema, said aeropolitics, “politics as conditioned by considerations of air power or its dominance”, was the bane of the carriers and was worse among African countries.

Onyema, who manages the leading local carrier, said Nigerian flag carriers had wrongly been “demonised” as lacking the requisite capacity to compete, “forgetting the effects of resistance and bad politicking coming from African neighbours.”

He stated that the indigenous airlines need the backing of government in terms of slot negotiation, charges’ harmonisation and dismantling of other strategies being deployed to frustrate Nigerian carriers abroad.

To the chairman of Airlines Operators of Nigeria (AON), Capt. Nogie Meggison, the “gross imbalance and insincerity of many African countries” explain why his members were against both the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) initiatives aimed at creating a single continental market for goods and services with free movement of persons and investments.

Though he lauded the moves, but the AON chief was quick to raise the number.


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