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Air Peace's Boeing 777-300 with Registration number 5N-BUU. Sourced from JetPhotos

International Operations: Senate heeds Onyema’s call, set to probe multiple designation

CRIES for support and protection for Nigerian airlines as canvassed aggressively by Chairman Air Peace, Allen Onyema may have started bearing fruit as Senators on Wednesday advocated for the protection of Nigerian airlines from what they described as unfair competition from their foreign counterparts.

This is just as Senate resolved to invite the indigenous airline operators to explain to the Senate the challenges they are facing in the aviation industry as well as summon the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transport, the Director General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and Managing Director of FAAN to explain why foreign airlines are allowed to fly multiple routes within Nigeria to mop up passengers; a practice not allowed in other countries.

Senator Ifeanyi Uba who brought the motion to the Senate decried that foreign airlines are now designated to multiple routes within Nigeria noting that this development threatens the survival of local airlines.

He said, “For example, Ethiopia Airlines operates in five cities namely; Enugu, Kano, Kaduna, Abuja, and Lagos; Turkish Airlines operates in four cities: Abuja, Kano, Lagos, and Port Harcourt and Emirates Airlines operates two frequencies daily into Lagos and one to Abuja.”

He noted that besides multiple designations, foreign airlines are now being encouraged to do multiple frequencies into the country and within the country, a practice which he said is not allowed in other countries.

“For instance, Turkish Airlines has just started Istanbul to Abuja, Abuja to Port Harcourt, Port Harcourt to Abuja, then Abuja to Istanbul. Lufthansa and Air France are also doing same, thereby running indigenous airlines out of business.

“Concerned that while Emirates has two frequencies into Lagos and one to Abuja, it has announced plans to introduce a third flight in and out of Lagos to start very soon, making it three flights daily to Lagos.”

Mr Uba stated that Nigerian airlines such as Arik, Virgin Nigeria, Medview and others, had in the past run out of international routes through this’ trend of unfair advantages allowed foreign airlines in Nigeria.’

He said that indigenous airlines have the capacity to cover all the domestic routes being operated now by these foreign airlines. He added that the practice in international aviation is for foreign airlines to partner with local airlines to help them distribute their passengers within the domestic routes.

He said further, “The Senate notes that the unrestrained grant of designations and multiple frequencies to foreign airlines is not only hurting the growth of our indigenous carriers but also a monumental disservice to the economy of Nigeria in several ways. Besides threatening the continuous existence of our indigenous carriers, the capital flight out of Nigeria engendered by this unwholesome practice is monumental and harmful to our economy;

“The Senate notes equally that Nigerian jobs are seriously at risk as a result of this dire situation since it is the indigenous airlines that provide massive job opportunities for our people; the number of jobs created by all the foreign airlines put together is not up to what Air Peace alone created in its first one year of existence. That airline alone has over 3,000 employees and has also created over 8000 ancillary jobs.”

Mr Uba said the practice is a threat to the survival and growth of Nigeria’s aviation industry and if unchecked, would ultimately lead to the collapse of Nigeria’s indigenous airlines.

Senator Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf (Taraba-APC) who contributed to the discourse urged the federal government to look into the regulation of the industry as the existing ‘environment does not support fair competition.’

Mr Lawan in his concluding comments urged the government to give more support to indigenous firms operating in the economy.

“We should do enough to encourage our patriots who have the courage to put their resources in any part of the economy,” he said.

The Air Peace Chairman had during his inaugural flight to Sharjah had called for government support stating that the airline may not thrive internationally if government does not provide the support.

He said,” Let me make this clear, Air Peace will never be able to combat international aero-politics without the support of the government. We can only combat it if our government supports us. It is a shame that several Nigeria airlines have come here (Dubai) and they were pushed out either through unfair competition or some arm-twisting tactics, it is very unfair. The only plan we have is the plan of sustainability, to sustain our operations to the best of our abilities. That is so far as we can go, if we are not supported. So Air Peace needs the support of everybody.

We gathered that an airline from UAE wants to increase its frequency to Nigeria. If government allows that it will count against its indigenous carrier. Like in other countries, the first obligation of government is to protect its own. In the past, government officials will say ‘Nigerian airlines don’t have capacity,’ but I am sure they cannot say that against Air Peace now.

“If they give them another frequency they will make it uncompetitive for us and that will force us to close this route and I will let Nigerians know why I closed the route. So, let us think of Nigeria first. Air Peace can only stay here as long as we are protected by our government,” he had said.

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