Govt begins review of air pact with 60 nations

OduahA REVIEW of air pacts between Nigeria and over 60 other nations is expected to commence today in Abuja.

A member of the review committee who spoke to The Guardian yesterday said they would begin with the first phase of the exercise today, but declined to disclose which countries would come first.

“We were in India and we just came back from the 65-nation BASA members in India. So we want to review some of the BASA agreements,” the source said.

There are indications that the BASA involving the lucrative routes might come under scrutiny, particularly, the London-Nigerian route. The need to scale down on the frequencies (time of operations) was necessitated by the row between the British government and the Nigerian authorities over the sale of slots in London Heathrow Airport which a Nigerian airline considered to be costly.

The row forced the Ministry of Aviation to consider a retaliatory action against British Airways by cutting down its frequencies to Lagos to three and changing its schedule to odd hours. The matter was however resolved diplomatically, forcing the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah-Ogiewonyi to rescind her decision on the mega carrier, while London allowed Arik Air to buy slots at prevailing rate at London Heathrow Airport. This development was said to have forced the Ministry to look at the BASA with a view to balancing the pact.

To many stakeholders, balancing the pact may not be feasible because only one Nigerian airline operates to London and the United States under BASA and ‘Open Skies’ policy. Two British carriers, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways have between them 21 frequencies while Arik has 14 as it operates to London from Lagos and Abuja. Besides, no Nigerian airline operates to the United Arab Emirates. Emirates and Qatar operate to Lagos from Dubai and Doha.

Reviewing the pact without ability of Nigerian airlines to offer services, according to sources, amounts to cutting choices among travellers. Already, many of these carriers, The Guardian learnt, pay royalty to the Federal Government for the failure of Nigerian airlines to reciprocate these services.

The Assistant Secretary General of Airline Operators of Nigeria, Mohammed Tukur said the review of the agreements could make for renewal of the contents in line with realities of modern aviation.

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