• Saturday, May 18, 2024
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Why NASS must urgently enact Fly Nigeria Act, by Agbakoba

Nigeria can’t achieve food security because there’s warfare going on – Agbakoba

Olisa Agbakoba, a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), has said that the National Assembly needed to urgently enact the Fly Nigeria Act to strengthen the aviation industry.

Agbakoba advised Festus Keyamo, minister of Aviation and Aerospace Space Management, to take the step without further delay, in the interest of the country.

The Maritime lawyer, who spoke in Lagos,
commended the efforts of the minister in securing the lucrative Lagos-London route under the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) for Air Peace.

“Despite the potential to generate revenue, create jobs, and stimulate other industries like hospitality and tourism, the sector has experienced a high turnover of registered airlines, with many having a short lifespan of five to 10 years.

“The absence of Aviation Cabotage, an enabling legal and policy environment for national airlines, is a fundamental factor contributing to the failure of Nigerian airlines,” he said.

Agbakoba recalled that over the years, “proposals such as the Fly Nigeria Bill, Aviation Corporate Governance Code, and the domestication of international conventions have been suggested to address these challenges.”

He noted that his chamber had been working on ‘these issues for 15 years, advising several ministers, with the current Minister of Aviation, Keyamo, being the most responsive.”

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) also informed that “the OAL Fly Nigeria Act, modeled on the Fly America Act, aims to apply public funds for air travel exclusively to national carriers, generating passenger traffic and supporting their international growth.”

He also noted other critical components of the proposed reforms to include, “Amendment of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCCA) Act to introduce a strong governance code as most national airlines are one-man businesses; domestication of international instruments, and enforcement of Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASAs).”

Agbakoba, senior partner, Olisa Agbakoba Legal (OAL), strongly believes that “These reforms will free the government from direct management of airports, create jobs, drive revenue, and allow for a limited government focus on policy while enabling private sector growth.

Commends Aviation minister over truce with Britain on Air Peace

On the extent of effort so far made to see to the acceptance of the proposal by the new Aviation Minister, Agbakoba said: “We showed the aviation minister our long history. We showed him all the letters, some dating back to 15 years which we gave to the various ministers of aviation. So, he was satisfied and said, ‘you guys have been working hard’.
“So, we said to him, if you stay on the course, you will achieve success. If the British government refuses to reciprocate the 14 spaces that British Airways (BA) is occupying, not to talk about Virgin Atlantic, then you tell them they won’t come to Nigeria. This is the principle of reciprocity.

“So, when that happened, they grudgingly allowed Air Peace to come to the UK and look at what happened. Look at the space that has opened. Look at how the airfares dropped by 60 percent.

“So, we are very happy that this has occurred in the aviation industry. But we have told the minister that it must be sustained. Because the British government is doing all it can to frustrate Air Peace. Giving them the worst slots at Gatwick Airport.

“So, there is still an advantage. But if you look at British Airways economy class price, it is valued at N3million, while Air Peace economy class costs N1.2 million. People will prefer to take Air Peace and then they will take a train from Gatwick to Paddington or Gatwick to Victoria Station. So, that is competition. So, there is a necessity to keep the competition framework going. The Federal Government is doing a great job.

“So, it is this structural framework government needs to bring to bear. Government has no business being in business. The last problem with the last minister was he wanted to run the airlines himself. That is not his job?
“The job of the minister is to create the policy environment to enable actors to play. If Keyamo wanted to do a national carrier now, we would still be where we are.

“But he realised that it wasn’t his role. His role is policy. So, he took Allen Onyema, the Chairman of Air Peace, by the hand, and landed in London, and said to them, this is the man who we want to give the rights to fly, and he insisted, if you don’t give us that right, then under the principle of reciprocity, we won’t allow you to come, and then there it is.”

He also offered that “OAL is committed to working with the Federal Government and other stakeholders to facilitate the passage and implementation of comprehensive aviation sector reforms, unlocking the industry’s potential and positioning Nigeria as a major player in the global aviation market.”