Playing international aero politics to save Nigerian airlines

THE 2019 general elections have been contested with winners emerging from all sides, hence, as expected, while some of the winners are coming afresh, others have been given a second chance by the electorate to serve them.

With the re-election of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party led by President Muhammadu Buhari back to office, it is obvious that there will be some reshuffling or new appointments that will have effects on all sectors of economy particularly the critical sectors among which is aviation.

From all indications, some stakeholders are already making case for the return of the incumbent minister of state for aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika on the premise that he would be in the best position to complete the projects he started in his first coming.

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Such projects they have argued include: the Nigerian Air project and the privatisation or commercialization of the country’s airports.

This group of stakeholders have hinged their position on the ground that bringing a new minister afresh to oversee the sector will mean starting all over again as a new minister may have different vision and mission which may contradict what is already on ground.

At any angle this may be viewed from, one sure thing is that either the incumbent minister is retained or if a new one will be appointed, there are so many unfinished jobs waiting on ground for whoever is coming to tackle headlong.

Without mincing words, the sector has been bedeviled with so many challenges which can no longer be ignored or handled with levity in view of the negative impact on the entire system.

Among such endless challenges are the lopsided Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA), high exchange rates, expensive aviation fuel, to hostility from home countries of many of the foreign carriers towards the Nigerian carriers designated to operate to their countries while the foreign carriers are given red carpet treatment here.

Therefore, if Senator Sirika is retained, one critical area he or perhaps his successor should give priority is in the area of aero politics which hitherto now, had been downplayed.

It is very unfortunate that as at today, all the Nigerian carriers that had earlier been designated on the major foreign routes had been muzzled out of the routes by the foreign carriers in collusion with their home governments.

The failure of the subsequent governments to help the Nigerian airlines play international aero politics contributed mainly to the withdrawal of Nigerian airlines like Arik Air and Medview from the foreign routes they were initially operating into.

Presently, another Nigerian carrier that is suffering from international aero politics is Air Peace.

It is sad to note that Air Peace, with its fleet of new generation aircraft capable of competing with mega carriers around the world, having been designated on foreign routes such as Dubai, Sharjah, London, Houston, Guangzhou-China, Mumbai and Johannesburg has not been able to operate a single flight into any of them because of the bottleneck put before the airline by the civil aviation authorities of the affected countries, under the guise of protecting their own airlines.

The time has now come for the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government to use this second coming to join in international aero politics as this will pave the way for Nigerian carriers to compete with their foreign counterparts.

It is a disgrace that as big as Nigeria is, none of its airlines flies to places like, Europe, Asia and America even when airlines like Air Peace that has better aircraft parked on ground, have continued to be frustrated in the face of over-protectionism garnished with high level international aero politics.

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