Opinion: Nigeria bears fang, wakes up from slumber

Nigeria seems to be gradually waking up from its slumber. The country had for too long gone asleep when it comes to aero politics and had failed abysmally to up the ante when it comes to looking bigger nations in the eyes in the area of Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) Nigeria has with other nations.

Bilateral agreements are air service agreements between two countries that provide different degrees of freedom of the air, which are a set of commercial aviation rights granting a country’s airlines the privilege to enter another country’s airspace. These agreements are reciprocal except where the other part is incapacitated to reciprocate.

Piqued by the decision to limit Emirates to just one weekly flight to Abuja, the carrier swiftly suspended its operations to Nigeria, making it the second time in ten months for the two nations to be engaged in a fierce diplomatic row.

For many years, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, and the Director-General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Musa Nuhu had shown the courage to why Nigeria should not be pushed around by anybody even when our antecedents prove us to be weakling.

 

Nigeria’s Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika

The duo had before now shown that foreign airlines no matter how big they may be cannot push Nigerian airlines or any of the country’s interests around.

When one was thinking that the problems emanating from the diplomatic row between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates had ended resulting in the return of Emirates to Abuja and Lagos last week, the duo pulled the trigger and asked Emirates to stop services to Lagos and restricted the airline to just Thursday flight to Abuja alone.

The General Civil Aviation Authority of UAE had denied the sole Nigerian carrier, Air Peace from operating three times to Sharjah, near Dubai while Emirates enjoys 21 frequencies to Lagos and Abuja. That is massive and one that shows where the pendulum swings.

Although, the GCAA had defended its position, attributing its refusal to grant the three frequencies to the airline to inadequate slots in Sharjah airport, stressing that the government would continue to protect Nigeria’s businesses.

That excuse sounds ridiculous even though the writer understands very well slot allocations in very busy airports like Dubai, London Heathrow, and other very big airports across the world.

Except there is more to it, Air Peace does not provide the competition for Emirates because the Nigerian carrier does point-to-point operations to the UAE and does about seven or fewer flights a week to Sharjah while Emirates was before now handed 21 frequencies.

Agreed that Nigerian airlines are small and fragmented, the idea of clandestinely edging the country out by using underhand tactic smacks of arrogance as many of the country’s leaders in the past had looked the other way when it comes to defending Nigeria’s common interest.

Nuhu had at different for a promised to protect the interest of the country’s airlines in fighting repressive rules occasioned by feisty aero politics in the global aviation industry.

It would not be difficult to fight aggressive policies in aviation, but it begins with the local airlines complying with global standards.

In the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic when nations clandestinely shut out Nigeria, Sirika activated the principle of reciprocity to deny flight approvals to Air France-KLM, Lufthansa, Etihad Airways, Angolan TAG, Royal Air Maroc among others.

To show his frustration, the NCAA DG said he held a series of meetings with the GCAA DG on the sidelines of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Air Navigation Conference in Bogota, Colombia which all ended in a stalemate; a situation that forced Sirika and Nuhu to fear their fang!  

 

Article was written by Wole Shadare, Publisher, Aviation Metric.  He can be reached at shadare2005@yahoo.com

Wole Shadare