By Dung Pam
An active and sustainable local aviation industry has strategic importance that goes beyond mere commercial and business objectives. It is a matter of national interest and national security.
Administering of Nigeria’s bilateral air service agreement (BASA) is a matter of national security. The Ministry of Aviation has consistently failed to understand how critical this is. If they are bereft of the requisite information, a wider stakeholder consultation will have brought this to light.
Therefore, it is irresponsible and a dereliction of duty for the Federal Ministry of Aviation to offer multiple designations and entry points to international carriers to the detriment of our local airlines.
This act virtually outsources our aviation industry. The reason why Nigerian airlines are not able to proportionately reciprocate our bilateral air service agreement (BASA) is because they are weak, disorganised and fragmented. The duty and the challenge for the Federal Ministry of Aviation (FMA) is to reverse the current situation by creating policies and implementing strategies that will ensure the emergence of strong, organised and viable local airlines.
For the past 18 months, Nigeria Aviation Safety Initiative (NASI) and other proactive organisations and individuals have advocated for strategic partnerships such as mergers, acquisitions, commercial agreements, code shares and inter-line activity within the local industry as a panacea for the current mediocrity and declining fortunes.
Mega carriers in Europe and America are merging to further extract cost synergies and take advantage of economies of scale. Yet, the FMA is superintending over the collapse of its aviation sector.
The FMA and NCAA should facilitate the evolution of our 16 under performing airlines into five viable and profitable airlines capable of providing the world class service Nigerians deserve and are happy to pay for. These five restructured airlines should then be engaged in a transparent process of bidding for the “two positions” of Nigeria’s flag carriers.
The security implication of aviation operation is also underscored by the recent incidences of widespread money laundering and illegal importation of arms suspected to be taking place using aircraft and airports. Thus, exacerbating the lingering security situation in the country.
Nine years after Isa Yuguda and his high powered ministerial committee discovered over 70 illegal airports and heliports we are still grappling with stowaways and airport perimeter and air-side security breaches. Not a single airport in Nigeria has met all the safety and operational requirements to be fully certified. Thirteen years after signing a provisional open skies agreement with the USA we are still unable to take advantage of it.
It is time to see some concrete proactive solutions to the problems bedevilling Nigeria’s aviation sector.
Dung Pam (ATPL, AMEL, MSc., ASM, FIMC), an aircraft pilot and aviation management professional, is president, Nigeria Aviation Safety Initiative (NASI).
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