Nigeria and the Caribbean island of Jamaica are to finalise Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) in order to establish direct flights between Lagos/Abuja and Kingston, Jamaica within the the shortest possible time, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Professor Viola Onwuliri told Nigerian Tribune in Abuja.
According to her, the agreement will be finalised at the forthcoming third session of the Nigeria-Jamaica Joint Commission.
She explained that in view of the almost zero trade and investment statistics existing between the two countries, it is believed that a direct flight from Nigeria to Jamaica will connect the Caribbean region to Africa and unbundle the existing opportunities at both sides.
When implemented, Onwuliri noted, traveling from Nigeria to Jamaica which currently takes about 17 hours irrespective of the route taken, will only take about eight hours if direct from Lagos/Abuja to Kingston.
She observed that apart from the high cost of trips through a third country, other challenges exist including longer flight time and and hours in transit, fatigue as a result of the long hours of traveling, challenges of obtaining transit visas through the United States, United Kingdom or other connecting countries and mishandling of luggage arising from transiting, among others.
“These challenges are barriers to investment flow between the two countries and must be removed if the situation is to change for the better. As a result, officials of the two countries initialed the text of the BASA Agreement in 2009,” Onwuliri said.
“Since then, the text had been awaiting the final ratification by the two sides which would give birth to the realization of a direct flight from Nigeria into Jamaica.”
Onwuliri remarked that Nigeria and Jamaica belong to several international organizations and have continued to pursue common interests in such organizations saying, Jamaica has continuously supported Nigeria’s several bids for elective posts in the organizations in which the two countries share membership.
“I note in particular that Nigeria’s success of re-election to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as a non-permanent member was made possible by the collective support we garnered from other members of the international community including Jamaica,” she said.
The minister added: “Nigeria is indeed desirous of strengthening relations with Jamaica not only in political are but also in trade and economic cooperation in order to attract investors in various sectors of the economy such as power generation, construction, agriculture, textile and industry.”
Jamaica is the third largest Caribbean island but economic relations between the country and Nigeria have largely remained dormant over the years despite the cordial and political relations and signing of a number of bilateral agreements including omnibus agreement on economic, air service, trade, social, cultural, scientific and technical cooperation. [NT]