…decries imbalance of BASAs
Domestic airline operators under the aegis of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), has called on the Federal government to urgently make available to them significant amount of foreign currency (dollar) in a bid to forestall total collapse of the system.
Nogie Meggison, chairman of the association at a briefing at the Murtala Muhammed Airport terminal two (MMA2), Lagos, also asked government to renegotiate Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) it has with many countries, adding that the lopsidedness of the BASAs over the years was killing the sector.
He said the current forex constraint being experienced by airlines the country has further exacerbated the problems of the already burdened airlines, adding that ‘domestic airlines still need to carry out numerous operational activities including maintenance, pay insurance and purchase of spare parts in foreign currency.
“We also have blocked funds and issues, we have to do simulator training for pilots abroad and do major transactions in dollars but Nigerian government has now forgotten the local carriers that jumpstart the economy focused on the foreign carriers”, he said.
While decrying that government has not been fair to the local operators over this issue, he said in the last six months, foreign airlines have gotten $200 million from government while their domestic counterparts have only got less than $10 million.
“Foreign airlines repatriate an estimated $2.2 billion yearly out of Nigerian economy leading to a colossal amount of capital flight as against domestic carriers that retain funds in the economy and provide jobs to Nigerians locally. Despite this, domestic are yet to receive up to $10 million in comparison.
He said because of lopsidedness of BASA, the foreign airlines are now asking for their money and using international pressure, lamenting that only last week, two foreign airlines got $14 million each from their blocked funds while he personally had only got $62,000 since January.
“But 95 percent of passengers on domestic travel are on business trip while that of foreign airlines are mostly holiday and leisure, yet government prefers to give priority to them. The foreign airlines staff in Nigeria are just a handful while that of domestic are almost 100 percent local and who cannot be joked with.
“In air transport, the capital flight out of Africa is to the tune of $10 billion while $5 billion is taken from Nigeria. In Nigeria, our BASA is not balanced because they were signed by non-aviators, Nigeria has no choice now than to revisit its BASAs. Under the lopsidedness, some airlines are landing in the country 27 times without interline with any local carrier, this is also a country that signs 6th freedom agreement which is not done anywhere, there is urgent need to revisit the BASAs in the interest of the sector”, he added.
Meggison, while expressing unhappiness with the way foreign airlines treat Nigeria, he said none of them has any structure in the country where they make so much money and repatriate to their countries.
“Nigeria is a Category One country, we have met all the standards like many of the foreign countries where they fly from so why can’t they employ the locals and if they say they don’t meet their standards, they should take them and train them to their standards”, he added.
By: Sade Williams