Nigeria Renews Suspension of Flights to Niger as Part of ECOWAS Resolutions

Nigeria Renews Suspension of Flights to Niger as Part of ECOWAS Resolutions

Chinedu Eze

The federal government has renewed the suspension of commercial flights from Niger Republic to Nigeria and from Nigeria to the nation’s northern neighbouring country.

This was part of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) resolutions against Niger Republic, which on July 26, 2023 ousted its duly elected President, Mohamed Bazoum in a coup and replaced by the Military junta, General Abdourrahamane Tchiani.

The restriction included the directive that no commercial flight from Niger should overfly Nigerian airspace and no flight from any Nigerian state should overfly Niger’s airspace.

This directive (Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) was contained in a letter titled: ECOWAS Restriction on the Republic of Nigeria, from the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) Aeronautical Information Services dated February 2, 2024 and signed by the Director of Air Traffic Services, Tayo John, on behalf of the agency’s Managing Director and Chief Executive.

The letter stated: “In accordance with ECOWAS resolutions, all commercial flights from Niger to Nigeria, or from Nigeria to Niger, or from Niger overflying Nigeria, or from any state overflying Nigeria to Niger are suspended.”

However, the letter added that, “These restrictions do not affect: (a)Overflight aircraft through Niger airspace; (b) Aircraft in a state of emergency and (c) Special flights.”

It directed further that “special flights are to obtain authorisation from the permanent secretary, Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace.”

A NAMA insider told THISDAY that the NOTAM came as a result of the military take over by the military junta in Niger Republic.

“It came from the Ministry of Aviation as authorised by the permanent secretary and ECOWAS. The above restriction has not been lifted, hence NOTAM renewal in line with standard and recommended practices.”

But some industry stakeholders also told THISDAY that the military government in Niger might retaliate and in collaboration with Burkina Faso and Mali decide to close their airspace against international flights to and from Nigeria, disclosing that the airspace of these three countries was above 50 per cent of the total airspace of ECOWAS countries.

Former Acting Managing Director, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, Mr. Matthew Pwajok, told THISDAY that if these three countries closed their airspace, airlines operating to Nigeria and other countries in Southern Africa would lose huge amount of money because the closed airspace would extend hours of flight and NAMA would also lose over-fliers revenue, paid in foreign currency and the base of the agency’s income.

“The challenge we will have is, if they decide to close their airspace against flights from and to Nigeria, it will adversely affect our Europe-bound flights, which usually fly through Niger and this will be a serious challenge both for the airlines and for aviation agencies, especially NAMA.

“Flights from Southern Africa fly through Nigeria and we generate revenue from over flier charges, but if they close their airspace, these flights won’t be flying through our own airspace to connect to theirs and to Europe,” he said.

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