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Multiple entry point for foreign airlines stifles local carriers growth

Published by The Nation on Fri, 29 Aug 2014

The deputy managing director and head of flight operations, Arik Air , Captain Ado Sanusi has accused the Federal Government of undermining the growth of indigenous carriers through its policy of granting multiple entry points to foreign carriers into the country.Besides, granting such rights, he said government must ensure there is reciprocity in the bilateral air services agreements signed between Nigeria and the countries of the foreign carriers to bridge the current lopsidedness that exists.Sanusi said government must consider ways and assisting local airlines to boost their operational capacity to enable them compete with foreign carriers, by barring carriers from countries that are frustrating efforts by Nigerian carriers in getting traffic rights into their countries.He canvassed an airport slot allocation system that would give Nigerian carriers priority during check in and boarding , as is the practice in other countries.He accused aviation ministry officials of alleged corruption in facilitating the approval of extra flight frequency to foreign carriers at the detriment of Nigerian airlines.He said the alleged practices of such officials have contributed immensely to the invasion of the Nigerian market by foreign carriers .Sanusi said many African countries and others have been conspiring against Nigerian carriers in their quest to get approval to operate into many countries.He listed countries that have frustrated efforts of Arik Air to secure approval to fly into their country to include: Brazil, Egypt, Ethiopia, Togo and the United Arab Emirates,He said what is lamentable, is the impunity with which Nigerian government grants unrestricted frequencies to many foreign carriers without any consideration for reciprocity by the benefiting countries to Nigerian carriers.Sanusi said many African countries, including Togo, Ethiopia and Egypt, which ought to pursue the liberalization of air transport in the continent in line with the principle of Yamoussoukro Decision of 1999 have continued to frustrate efforts by Arik Air to secure approval for flights into their country.He said many foreign carriers were taking for granted the generosity of Nigerian government, which would offer anything to other countries at the detriment of her airlines.Sanusi said the categorisation of Nigerian carriers as weak by some experts, who have perception imbalance about the carriers is doing incalculable damage to the reputation of the carriers in the international investor community .He said many international finance agencies would be discouraged to access funds to Nigerian carriers because of the way, they have been so labeled by industry experts.He said: It is not unusual for foreign carriers to tell you that coming to Nigeria is a matter of who you know and who you can see. You will be surprised to know that some of the so called negotiations involve a price tag of $1 to $2 per passenger, per flight commission demanded by the negotiator.Consequently, there are several agents who scout for frequencies for foreign airlines in Nigeria and foreign airlines do pay them these commissions. Suffice it to say that top government officials might be unaware of this but there are other government officials who give one reason or the other of Nigerian airlines being weak, being incompetent and Nigerians want to travel but Nigerian airlines cannot airlift them to international destinations.These are the reasons these officials give to justify what they do and for their applications for multi frequencies from foreign airlines to be approved. Some of them even go to Aso Rock and give false information about Nigerian airlines. On the other hand, when Nigerian airlines go to other countries and request for entry approval, these requests are never replied. For example, Arik Air has written to the embassy of Brazil, Ethiopia, Togo, Egypt, to mention a few; in most cases we never got any response. In some other cases we were given unending list and when we satisfy that we were given fresh list.One would have thought that since we have bilateral air service, including Yamoussoukro Decision by African states aimed at liberalizing air services in the continent, and other agreements reached in ECOWAS, it would be easy for Nigerian airlines to have easy entry to some West African countries, for example, Togo where Asky is based.But Nigerians are too happy to give Asky all the frequencies it asked for and in fact, even feel alright that Nigerian airlines are denied entry to that country. It is high time the Nigerian government took a second look at this situation and responds appropriately. Our generosity and spirit of brotherhood should not be taken for granted and no nation will do what Nigeria is doing to her airlines. We wish to state categorically that Nigerian airlines have the capacity and know-how to compete with foreign airlines only if the government, the civil servants will allow the issue of multiple entries to Nigeria to be reciprocated to foreign countries.Nigerian carriers, Sanusi said have the capacity to compete with other players in the global arena, if government could have a rethink on its offer of multiple entry points to foreign carriers and insist that there must be reciprocity to Nigerian operators on the routes that such foreign carriers have been rewarded.He said other areas government could assist indigenous operators is to grant them waiver on payment of landing and parking fees for their aircraft, as is the practice in other countries.He said the levies and charges on indigenous carriers are too weighty , describing it as the highest in the world.Sanusi said the utilisation factor on Nigerian aircraft is too low, because of restriction on operations at some airports, which only carry our day light operations.Such daylight operations, he said are occasioned by absence of air field lighting systems at the airports, which he said should immediately be installed at airports nationwide, as is the practice in other West African and other countries.He accused of many Nigerian banks of not supporting indigenous carriers, due to the huge capital outlay required to acquire aircraft.He said: Nigerian carriers are not weak, labeling them as weak would only serve as a stumbling block to access funds from multilateral and financial institutions abroad.He however appealed to government to assist in securing landing slot at the London Heathrow Airport for its Abuja operations, saying that securing seven landing slots in London would reduce air fare charged by foreign carriers on the London Abuja route.He said: Nigerian airlines and the industry cannot grow without the support of government, even if is a national carrier.National carrier will not do more than what the existing domestic operators are doing. Government would be assisting the industry by stepping up its responsibility by reviewing the multiple entry point, which does not factor in the principle of reciprocity for Nigerian carriers.Granting multiple entry point for foreign carriers into Nigeria is counter productive.He also canvassed the setting up of an aircraft maintenance repair facility in Nigeria, which he said would create jobs for Nigerians and earn foreign exchange.]]>
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