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Concerns mount over multiple destinations for foreign carriers

A former Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika
A former Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika

There are mounting concerns over the allocation of multiple frequencies to foreign carriers, Daily Trust reports.

This followed the senate’s resolution last week that allowing foreign carriers to fly into multiple destinations in Nigeria was killing indigenous operators.

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The senate warned that local airlines might go into extinction if foreign airlines continued to operate multiple destinations.

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The resolution by the upper chamber of the National Assembly followed a motion entitled, “Unfair Competition and Urgent Need to Protect Nigeria’s Indigenous Airlines from Extinction” sponsored by Sen. Ifeanyi Ubah and 20 others.

Ubah in presenting the motion said, “Nigerian jobs are seriously at risk as a result of this dire situation since it is the indigenous airlines that provide massive job opportunities for our people. Air Peace alone has 3,000 employees and has also created over 8,000 ancillary jobs.

“So, if this practice is not checked immediately, it will ultimately lead to the collapse of Nigeria’s indigenous airlines.”

Daily Trust reports that many aviation analysts and stakeholders have questioned the allocation of multiple frequencies for foreign carriers, arguing that the development did not augur well for the growth of the indigenous carriers.

They argued that foreign carriers should be restricted to only one or two airports while the indigenous carriers were empowered to distribute the passengers across the country.

This, they said, would go a long way in boosting the capacity of local operators; most of who struggled to stay afloat.

Presently, there are over 30 foreign airlines operating in Nigeria while there are eight domestic operators. Most of the domestic airlines have gone into extinction over what they called the “toxic” operating environment.

The existing local carriers are Aero Contractors, Air Peace, Arik Air, Azman Air, Dana Air, Max Air, Med-View and Overland.

Stakeholders say all the employees of the over 30 foreign airlines in Nigeria are not up to the staff strength of one of the local operators.

“Our grouse is, why will you allow an airline to fly into four, five destinations in Nigeria when your local carriers are not getting enough passengers to convey from point to point”? an operator asked.

Aviation analyst, John Ojikutu, told our correspondent that government could grant multiple frequencies and not multiple destinations to foreign carriers.

“Multiple destinations infringe on domestic routes and therefore domestic market,” he said, adding that, “Multiple destination is not a government policy but unilateral decision of the Ministry of Aviation. It is an exploitation of Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) and commercial agreement by the ministry officials,” he added.

Another expert said it was even worrisome when no Nigerian airline was flying to many of the destination countries of foreign airlines to reciprocate the BASA.

While over 30 airlines fly into the country; some operating into multiple destinations, only Air Peace recently started international operation to Dubai via Sharjar in the United Arab Emirates.

Commenting on the multiple frequencies, Chairman of Air Peace, Mr. Allen Onyema, said, “I don’t see why a foreign airline, when we are trying to make our own airlines grow, will be allowed to be doing local flights in the name of open skies.

“I don’t see the reason why Turkish Airline should land in Abuja, from Abuja to Port Harcourt, Port Harcourt back to Abuja, Abuja back to their country. This is when you have Nigerian airlines aspiring to come onto the international scene. When you talk some people will tell you it is good for competition, competing with whom? Competing in denigrating your country’s economy? Is that what you are competing with? Again, and at the same time, the President of the country, I can assure you, wants the survival of indigenous airlines, that I can swear to and I know why I said this”.

A former Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, had justified multiple frequencies for foreign carriers, saying it was allowed to make connection seamless and easy for passengers travelling out of the country from different parts of the country.

 

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