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Ex- DG Of NCAA Faults President’s Air Service Agreement With Qatar

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Demuren made the remark on Wednesday while speaking at the Quarter One 2016 Breakfast Meeting of the Aviation Round Table (ART) in Lagos.A former Director-General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr Harold Demuren, has faulted the recent Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) signed by the Federal Government with the State of Qatar.

NAN reports that the BASA was signed by the Minister of State for Aviation, Capt. Hadi Sirika, on the sidelines of President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent state visit to Qatar.

The agreement is expected to pave way for more direct flights between major cities of both countries, on the principle of reciprocity by the designated airlines, on behalf of the countries. Sirika had said after the signing of the agreement that the accord would promote trade, commerce, tourism and travel, between both countries.

However, Demuren argued that Nigeria presently had no airline that could compete favourably with Qatar Airways, thus making the agreement lopsided. He said the agreement would now give Qatar Airways, which currently has seven frequencies into Nigeria, more entry points into the country and further compound the woes of the domestic airlines.

Demuren said: “It is good politics to sign BASA agreements, but it is bad economics. Airline operation is an invisible trade. Anytime you buy a ticket from a foreign airline, that money will be taken back in dollars. “So each time you sign a BASA agreement, you are simply committing your foreign exchange because you will be putting pressure on our naira. “Presently, Nigeria airlines cannot compete with Qatar Airways in terms of equipment, personnel, maintenance and other areas. “I am not saying that we should not sign BASA .What I am saying is that if we must sign BASA, we must know the content of the BASA we are signing.’’

He said that in the past, international airlines that operated into the country based on BASAs paid royalties which was how the government got some money in return for its investment. According to him, presently, some of these airlines no longer pay royalties, thereby denying the Federal Government much-needed revenue.

Also speaking, a former Managing Director of the defunct Nigeria Airways, Mr Andrew Okunuga, said Nigeria should grow its domestic airlines to become international players, in order to benefit from such agreements.

Okunuga stated that Arik Air and Medview Airlines should have been present when the latest BASA with Qatar was signed, adding that this would have been more beneficial to the country. On his part, a former Commissioner of the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Dr Sam Oduselu, called for more autonomy for the AIB and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), to enable them to perform their statutory functions effectively.

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