THE country’s aviation sector, particularly its domestic airline operators and other private investors therein are presently having a feeling of President Muhammadu Buhari’s democratic prowess.
This is not far from his decision to pause in the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) agreement in Kigali, Rwanda two days ago.
The AfCFTA is one of the flagship projects of the African Union Agenda 2063 which is aimed at creating a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments and one currency.
As good as this project is meant to be, rushing to sign this would have given other African countries and even some foreign nations undue advantage into the Nigerian market including Nigeria’s aviation market.
Kicking against the rush to sign the treaty earlier, Nigeria’s domestic airline operators through their association, Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) had called the attention of the Federal Government to the dangers in rushing to sign the treaty.
AON through its Chairman, Captain Nogie Meggison had cited how similar agreements signed without undue consultations by subsequent governments had impacted negatively on the sector in particular.
According to Megisson”History has shown that rushed treaties have put us in a disadvantageous position. That is why we have over 600 unemployed pilots roaming our streets; not to mention the numerous unemployed university graduates.
“While we think the AU 2063 Agenda is a good idea, we are, however, against the immediate signing of the AfCFTA. We must pause and carry along the numerous professionals, technocrats and investors in order to position Nigeria not to make the mistakes of the past.”
It is no longer news how many agreements such as the over 80 Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASAs) Nigeria had signed and still signing were equal to the selling off the country’s birthright in view of their lopsidedness and disadvantages to Nigeria.
Besides the lopsided BASAs, the Open Skies agreement Nigeria rushed to sign with the United States was another bad policy of government forced on the country without due consultations for as good as the policy was supposed to be, the then government failed to put its house in order before rushing to sign it and this is responsible for the unimpressive performance of the Nigerian carriers on the Nigerian/American route.
The dual designation policy signed between Nigeria and the Great Britain is another of such bad policy of government. As good as this would have been, the then government rushed to sign it without carrying experts along thus, making the environment tough for the Nigeria airlines to benefit from the policy.
It will be recalled that all these bad deals signed by the then government against the wish of majority of Nigerians who were professionals in the sector are badly responsible for the ruins in the sector up till now.
Therefore, rushing to sign the African Continental Free Trade Area in Rwanda would have been another good policy but badly packaged on behalf of Nigeria.
No doubt that President Buhari has done well in an area where many of his predecessors failed as he has the power to ignore the clarion calls made by the AON and other private investors to sign the treaty, but he chose the right decision to pause and consult.
By not rushing to sign the treaty, President Buhari is putting Nigeria first and this should serve as a lesson to those representing Nigerians in other places that they should stop ignoring the voices of those they represent. Like the AON, the Crucial Moment sincerely commend President Buhari for this humility he has displayed.