Nigeria To Renegotiate Aviation Pacts With 15 Countries

As Nigeria prepares to renegotiate the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) with 15 nations, there has been a call by stakeholders in the aviation industry for the country to review the trade pact in order to guarantee great benefits to the nation.

Many of the stakeholders at the just concluded seminar held by aviation journalists in Lagos recently endorsed the review.

An aviation security expert, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd.), told Aviation Metric at the weekend that reviewing BASA might involve a lot of diplomatic technicalities and language.

He, however, stated that reviewing all the commercial agreements with foreign airlines especially those that were given multiple frequencies, landings and destinations outside NASA’s, was within the competence of the power of the ministry and the minister.

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Ojikutu said, “To retain and sustain the domestic routes and the markets for the Nigeria private airline commercial operators, there is a very urgent need to review those commercial agreements that have given multiple landings and destinations in this country to foreign airlines.”

Nigeria is generally viewed as having one of the most liberalised air transport industries in Africa.

Although still competitive within Africa, it has a significantly weaker bargaining power as regards the BASAs with non-African countries, thereby leading to an imbalance with results spanning from increased dominance of foreign airlines to capital flight.

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Negotiations to enter into BASAs are usually spearheaded by the Ministry of Aviation after extensive consultation with aviation regulatory authorities and concerned institutions, for example, the immigration authorities.

However, it is quite common to see airline operators, desirous of expanding their routes to target destinations, lobby the Ministry of Aviation through diplomatic channels, to engage in formal talks, which usually lead to the commencement of negotiations between countries.

Nigeria currently has 89 BASA pacts with only about 39 of them active. Many of these have been reviewed to create opportunities for domestic carriers, but are largely not utilised. Specifically, domestic carriers are yet to utilise 10 percent of the air pact due to their limited capacity.

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Nigerian-born international expert and Chief Operating Officer (CEO), African Aviation Services Limited, Mr Nick Fadugba, says the country’s small fleet of aircraft will make it practically impossible for it to compete with foreign counterparts.

The former Secretary- General of African Airlines Association (AFRAA) put the average fleet size in Nigeria at a maximum of 10 aircraft, a number not enough to compete with British Airways that has over 400 aircraft.

Wole Shadare