A group of aviation professionals, the Aviation Round Table, ART, has commended the move by the Senate to protect Nigerian airlines from unfair competition in relation to their foreign counterparts.
The President of ART, Gbenga Olowo, told the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, on Friday in Lagos that the move, albeit belated, was a welcome development.
NAN reports that the lawmakers had on July 10 resolved to invite the indigenous airline operators to explain to the Senate the challenges they were facing in the aviation industry.
They had also resolved to summon the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transportation, the Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, and the Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN.
The senators want an explanation why foreign airlines are allowed to fly multiple routes within Nigeria and why some of them have more than one daily frequency into the country; a practice that is not allowed in other countries.
Mr Olowo said that the ART had always advocated the protection of Nigerian carriers by the Federal Government and its agencies and would continue to do so until it gets the desired results.
He said :” The Senate will have to revert a lot of the recklessness that have taken place in our Bilateral Air Services Agreements, BASAs.
“We, in ART, have continuously said that what we are doing to our domestic airlines is prodigal.
“Nigeria has been doing a lot of regulations on safety and has been getting pass marks, but in the area of economic regulations, we have been very reckless.
“Economic regulations, as far as BASA is concerned, is coming up with policies that will first of all protect your own airlines and local businesses.
Mr Olowo said unfortunately, the opposite was what was in place in Nigeria, compelling the country’s airlines to be suffering lack of reciprocity and negative balance of trade.
He noted that Nigerian carrier, Air Peace, which asked for government protection following its recent flight operations to Sharjah-Dubai, was justified to seek for assistance due to the hostilities meted to Nigerian carriers by foreign governments.
“ADC tried London and failed; Bellview tried India, Amsterdam, London, Dubai and failed; Medview went to Dubai and failed and now Air Peace is making another good effort to break into these lucrative routes.
“So, if our government is serious, especially the aviation ministry and the economic regulations department of the NCAA, they should agree with the protection Air Peace is asking for, which is very simple,” Olowo said.
According to him, what Air Peace is asking for is the elimination of unfair competition that affected its predecessors on the international routes.
Mr Olowo said for instance, Etihad and Emirates Airlines had multiple frequencies into Abuja and Lagos, stressing that in order to balance the scale, Air Peace should be granted same rights into the United Arab Emirates.
He said: “Right now, they are doing seven, and our economic regulators have to reduce it to three so that the market will be free for competition.
“Otherwise, those doing seven can drop tariff and will knock off their competitor from Nigeria. So, if you want to help your own, you have to make the reciprocity even.”
Mr Olowo advised the senate to make the hearing public and also extend invitation to the ART and other aviation professionals in order to achieve its purpose.