It was cheering to hear last week that the Federal Government has declared that it had commenced moves that will compel public servants across the country traveling on a ticket bought with public funds to travel on a Nigerian Carrier.
The Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika was said to have hinted of efforts the government was making to have the National Assembly pass a ‘Fly Nigeria Act’ in order to achieve this aim.
Speaking in Abuja, Sirika said“As part of efforts to make airlines viable in Nigeria, the ministry is making moves to have the National Assembly pass a fly Nigeria act. This Act will require that anybody travelling on a ticket bought with public funds must travel on a Nigerian carrier unless the route is not served by a Nigerian carrier. However, with your private funds, you can do as you like. Many countries, including America, have such Acts.”
Though, this will be a good development for domestic airline business in Nigeria, but how far this pronouncement can go is another issue begging for explanation.
The issue of ‘fly Nigeria act’ has been on ground for decades but as good as it would have been , each time it cropped up, those in the position of making it realisable, particularly, the National Assembly had for many times frustrated it.
Many questions had been raised by key players within and outside the sector as to why the lawmakers had chosen to frustrate this patriotic move through their deliberate attempt not to back it up.
As rightly pointed out by the minister, in countries serious about travel business such as Britain, it is almost impossible for you as a public figure not to fly carriers of that country on any route you are flying to except if airlines from the country are not operating there.
People from Britain including the highly respected Queen Elizabeth 11 complies with this patriotic act as she cannot fly any airline outside the British Airways and Virgin Atlantic of this world while flying out of Britain. This act is mainly to encourage local content vis a vis private investments and patriotism.
Unfortunately, most top government functionaries in Nigeria including its political class who got to their positions through the voting of the general public are responsible for why this act has not been able to fly in Nigeria.
It is on record that many government officials while travelling outside the country to represent Nigeria or even going for training using public fund still prefer to patronise foreign carriers at the expense of indigenous carriers operating on that route over flimsy excuses.
Many of the lawmakers and top government functionaries are guilty of this as you find them jostling for seats on the foreign carriers while few of the Nigerian carriers operating on the routes fly near empty to these same routes.
Though many of the public officials working against the act had for umpteenth time attributed their positions to what they called lack of confidence in the domestic carriers. While they have the right to life and live, one obvious issue is that even though the domestic carriers may not be living up to expectations at the domestic scene, they have to some extent, perform better on the international scene.
Assuming the domestic carriers are not living up to public expectations due to one reason or the other, what roles are those in the position to make things work better, particularly, the lawmakers who should make laws that will make the environment more friendly for domestic airline operations have they made.
Without any bias, many of the lawmakers who should back the minister in enforcing this act will definitely be the ones to frustrate it as many of them have their private jets are using to cruise around hence, they are not concerned about who flies the indigenous airlines.
While many Nigerians hope the minister succeed this time around, it is, however, hoped that this latest move of government is not to pave the way for the sole success of the coming national carrier, Nigeria Air.
Any policy been introduced by government henceforth, should be for the general benefits of the domestic airlines including the coming national carrier. Therefore, as good as this ‘Fly Nigeria Act’ should have been, all hands are on the deck to see how the minster will prevail on the National Assembly to support the move.
However, in achieving this too, the domestic airlines also need to wake up by carrying out their own role of displaying their readiness to provide favourable services that can change the present public perception about them, but these airlines cannot actually go too far without the support of the same government flying the Nigerian act.