Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, has lamented limited capacity of domestic carriers which has affected their ability to harness opportunities abound in the Bilateral Air Services Agreements (BASA), the country has with other nations.
Sirika, said Nigeria has successfully entered into BASA agreements with eighty three countries, many of which have been reviewed to create opportunities for domestic carriers, but are largely not utilized, said.
The minister stated this after the 6th edition of Aviation Stakeholders’ meeting held in Lagos at the weekend where he said domestic carriers are yet to utilise 10 per cent of the air pact due to their limited capacity.
Sirika stated that the BASA with Qatar and Singapore were recently signed and ratified.
With the execution of these instruments, it is expected that Nigeria’s aviation links with the respective countries will improve significantly.
While carriers from these two countries have the capacity to operate to Nigeria, no Nigerian airline is strong enough to reciprocate what may be described as one-sided benefits.
Arik Air and Medview flew Nigeria’s flag to New York, London, Johannesburg and Dubai, but had to withdraw when it became obvious that they could not match mega airlines such as British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Emirates.
Air Peace has been designated to places such as New York, London, Johannesburg, Dubai and other destinations. Over three years after that, the airline is putting its house in order to begin flight services to China and Singapore through code share arrangement.
Sirika also stated that the sector had seen a marginal increase in its contribution to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from 0.4 per cent increase in sector’s contribution to 0.6 per cent, an indication that the sector is growing.
Reports show that only 28 of those BASA’s are active. No Nigerian carrier is currently taking part in the frequencies.
BASAs are treaties signed between countries to allow international commercial air transport services between territories.
They promote international air link between countries, which supports and enables the movement of persons, cargo, trade and tourism. These pacts provide the framework under which identified airlines from the two countries fly into designated ports in each other’s country.
Apart from paving the way for direct flights, BASA ought to deepen bilateral ties between the countries, correct balance of trade, generate sufficient national income for the countries involved and boost their economies as well.
However, as attractive as the concept of reciprocity of rights is in BASA’s negotiation and its accruable benefits, Nigeria, as an economy, fails to take full advantage of it.
As a result, questions have been raised as to the effectiveness and profitability of these lopsided agreements to the Nigerian economy over the years.
Experts have advocated for restraint in signing air service agreements when Nigerian carriers are unable to fly to any of the partner countries, some of which enjoy multiple entry points into the country, as covered in the pact.
This development short-changes indigenous carriers as well as the country with foreign airlines remitting huge amounts of money out of Nigeria on ticket sales.
Lack of capacity greatly affects Nigerian carriers. This often results in failure to reciprocate some of the bilateral air services agreements, as indigenous carriers cannot match any of the foreign carriers on routes when the agreements are either utilised or reciprocated.
There are indications that loss by Nigerian carriers is in excess of over N100billion annually. This follows the perennial inability of the nation’s flag carriers to reciprocate and compete with their international partners on the BASA routes.
Speaking on the progress made on the implementation of aviation sector road map, particularly on Public Private Partnership (PPP) on aviation infrastructure intervention through airport concession, establishment of Maintenance, Repairs and Overhaul (MRO) Centre and Aviation Leasing Company (ALC), development of an Aerotropolis and development of Cargo/Agro Allied terminals, the minister said they are progressing well.