The federal government has signed a Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) with the USA, India, Morocco as well as Rwanda.
Hadi Sirika, minister of aviation in his twitter handle @hadisirika stated, “I am glad to announce that Mr President, on behalf of Nigeria, has signed the instruments of ratification of the bilateral air service agreement between Nigeria and USA, India, Morocco as well as Rwanda.”
This development is coming after experts have also called on the federal government to review the country’s BASAs.
BASA, founded on the principle of reciprocity, is a deal that enables a country’s airlines to enjoy equal leverage, in terms of flight operations, in countries with which their home country has an air agreement.
John Ojikutu, member of the aviation industry think tank group, Aviation Round Table (ART) and chief executive of Centurion Securities, told BusinessDay that the concerned authorities need to first identify the places where private airlines or private aircraft can be accommodated in the existing BASAs between Nigeria and these countries.
“We had a similar problem with Arik operations to the UK some years ago and there were some ‘diplomatic’ moves that restored the airline operated from Gatwick to Heathrow. The question I asked then was; what would happen if tomorrow you get a national carrier flying; would the national carrier be flying to Gatwick or to Heathrow?
“Some of these interventions in private operations and international operations are not well thought out government decisions but unilateral exploitations of the systems by some individuals in official capacities. My take is, if we don’t have a national carrier, let there be flag carriers as all American Airlines are but there must be policies and regulations to become one.
“That is why I said nationally, we must have policies that classify our airlines as regional flag carriers, continental flag carriers or intercontinental flag carriers. If Air Peace is being refused flights to UK now but BA is still allowed to fly into Nigeria, we must revisit the agreement that allowed Air Peace into UK pre covid19 within or without the BASA between the two countries if it is not a unilateral arrangement outside the BASA,” Ojikutu explained.
He also asked on whose interests the multiple frequencies and destinations are given to foreign airlines like BA, Ethiopian airline, Emirates, Qatar, etc?
Olumide Ohunayo told BusinessDay that it is time Nigeria begins to take its BASA seriously and look for reciprocity because what other countries have done now is to see how they can take advantage of BASA through their own carriers.
“Once they stop you, they provide their own carriers that will do it. We need to use this period to learn our lessons, straighten our BASA agreements and on no basis should we allow our flag carriers to go unprotected and unassisted. You don’t have to own the carrier to give it support,” Ohunayo said.