The Director-General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu, has said that Nigeria will not hesitate to reciprocate unfair charges by foreign airlines against the country.
Nuhu, stated that If foreign countries have airlines coming to Nigeria give the country’s airlines’ unfair charges, Nigeria would also do same to their carriers.
Only Air Peace operates out of Nigeria and had accused international airlines of giving it higher airport charges, navigational and other taxes.
Nuhu argued that there should be fairness considering the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) the country has with many of the airlines.
His words, “When we have BASA, there should be fairness on both sides. If there are challenges, they should inform us but if they are going for the first time, they involve us so that we sit down, strategize and send people there to negotiate.”
Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, had last month enforce the principle of reciprocity in granting permission to airlines to resume operations in the country as it opened its airspace.
According to him, the country’s position was informed by the ban placed by some countries on flights from Nigeria, and that Nigeria’s decision was taken in the interest of its citizens.
Air France, KLM, Lufthansa, Etihad Airways, Angolan TAG, Air Namibia and Royal Air Maroc were not approved to operate flights into Nigeria.
He listed British Airways, Emirates, Ethiopian, AWA, and Middle East Airlines as airlines permitted into the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Just last week, Emirates was barred over alleged visa restriction to Nigerians by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
He also listed Egyptair, Virgin Atlantic, Turkish Airlines, AWA, Kenya Airways and Middle East Airlines as airlines allowed to operate into the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
Explaining the reasons for the ban and the principle of reciprocity being applied to some countries, Sirika said Nigeria was simply following what each country had done to the country.
On the precarious situation of Nigerian carriers, the NCAA chief disclosed that COVID-19 had done incalculable damage to the carriers and others around the globe, adding that the entire travel and tourism industry had been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 in a negative way.
“Airlines have had to sack people in order to save cost, even the major airlines. British Airways is reported to have plans to lay off a third of its workforce, that is about 10, 000 to 12, 000 people”.
“Lufthansa is going to ground all its entire A830 fleet and its 747 fleet, that is a significant number of redundancies; Emirate has laid off people, likewise Etihad and in the US the same scenario plays out. Let us not make it a Nigeria thing but rather see it as a global challenge”.
He further disclosed that the government was working on policy through the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika to see if some palliatives can be given to the airlines.
Nuhu had hinted of government’s decision to grant operators, palliatives to cushion the effect of COVID-19 on their operations, but maintained that airlines without valid AOC would not benefit from it.
Federal Government had approved the sum of N27 billion as a palliative for the entire aviation industry in Nigeria, while reports claimed that N10 billion out of the sum was earmarked for indigenous airline operators.
Nuhu reiterated that defunct airlines are not entitled to the fund when it is eventually released for the airlines.
Presently, scheduled airlines with valid AOC are Overland, Air Peace, Med-View, Aero Contractors, Max Air, Azman Air, Arik Air and Dana Air.
He said: “This issue of palliative is a policy, driven by Hadi Sirika for all players in the industry. Existing and defunct airlines are free to apply for the fund, but it is airlines with valid AOC that will benefit from it. Also, I believe AON has its guidelines, but if you don’t have a functional AOC, you should forget it.”