NIGERIA – The Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASA) between Nigeria and other countries around the world have risen to 92 even as some state governments continue to mount pressure on the Federal Government to bring in foreign airlines into their states.
Information obtained from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority in October this year showed that the air agreement recently signed between the Federal Government and the Republic of India had brought the number to 92.
The Federal Government last year also signed air agreements with Algeria, Congo, China, Qatar and Singapore.
A BASA is an air transport agreement between two countries allowing designated airlines from the concerned countries to operate commercial flights, covering transportation of passengers and cargoes.
Although designed to be of mutual benefit between the two countries, Nigerian aviation stakeholders have over the years lamented that most air agreements between Nigeria and other countries have been one-sided as Nigerian airlines have been unable to reciprocate the agreements.
The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, said many of BASAs had been reviewed to create opportunities for domestic carriers.
He, however, noted that the opportunities remained largely unutilised at about 10 per cent due to limited capacity.
The recent sharp rise in BASA agreements is also being strongly criticised since it is opening Nigerian domestic air market to foreign airlines which are increasing the frequency and further suppressing domestic carriers.
Aviation analyst and Chief Executive Officer, Belujane Konsult, Mr Chris Aligbe said that the the only way Nigeria can compete with international airlines flying into the country is through the launch of a national carrier.
He explained that without a national carrier, foreign airlines would continue to exploit the country.
Aligbe further said that state governments had also become part of the problem as they were putting pressure on the Federal Government to bring in foreign airlines into their states.
He said this had encouraged foreign airlines to keep asking for multiple designations in Nigeria rather than negotiating for code-sharing where local airlines where they would partner with them to airlift passengers from different airports to one airport, where the foreign carrier would airlift the passengers to international destinations.
Apart from agreements with countries outside the continent, Nigeria also has an open skies treaty known as the Single African Air Transport Market with about 27 other member states of the African Union as well as other potential signatories.
Currently, 25 foreign airlines operate flights into Nigeria; some daily, from multiple destinations. While only one Nigerian airline operates internationally, one or two others operate on regional routes.