Aviation industry experts have called for the review of Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA), signed between Nigeria and other countries, which many of them believe is lopsided against Nigeria.
They said the coronavirus lockdown period was a good opportunity to review the BASA, which they argued some countries had been benefitting from over the years at the expense of Nigeria.
THISDAY investigation revealed that some airlines, especially European based carriers have grandfather rights, which exempt them from commercial agreements Nigeria has with some other airlines and because of this they do not pay certain charges, but unfortunately, these countries do not extend the same hand to Nigerian airlines.
For instance, some years ago, Arik Air was stopped from operating from Abuja to London; unless it paid for slot allocation, which cost huge amount of money. But, while British Airways was and is still flying to Abuja, enjoying grandfather rights, Arik Air was paying for slots and when the Nigerian carrier deemed that operation unprofitable, it stopped, leaving only British Airways to be operating to Abuja from London with minimum load factor of 85 per cent.
Therefore, experts frowned upon the fact that while some of the countries introduced clauses to jeorpardise Nigerian airlines operation to their countries, Nigeria rarely retaliated in the spirit of diplomatic principle of reciprocity.
Also despite the visa agreements with many of these countries, there are policies introduced by some of the countries that have BASA with Nigeria to further curb the foray of Nigerian carriers to their destinations and at the same time give their own airlines more frequencies and more destinations to Nigerian cities.
Industry stakeholders said the aim of the international carriers and their countries, was to make sure that indigenous carriers do not rise to compete with them on those lucrative routes like Lagos-London, Abuja-London, Lagos-Dubai, Lagos-Paris, Lagos-Amsterdam and Lagos-Johannesburg.
Director of Engineering, Ibom Air, Lukman Animaseun, told THISDAY that Bilateral Air Service Agreement is what countries use to protect their airlines and favour themselves at the expense of others.
“So if you look at what the Ministry of Aviation is doing you will see that what they consider is the flexibility of Nigerians to travel before they consider the indigenous airlines, but it is high time they reviewed the BASA and consider the interest of Nigeria and its airlines first,” Animaseun said.
He said some industry stakeholders have pointed that domestic airlines do not have corporate governance, noting that any airline that wished to develop strong capacity must have corporate governance.
Travel expert and organiser of Akwaba African Travel Market, Ikechi Uko, spoke in the same vein to THISDAY, saying the pandemic has offered the federal government the opportunity to review BASA to the country’s advantage.
“This is the time to review BASA to escape the European trap. How can you reclaim all the rights given to European carriers? COVID-19 has given Nigeria the opportunity to renew the agreements. If you want to fly to Nigeria, give us what we are giving you,” he said.