As Nigerian Government mulls reviewing its Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) with the United Kingdom (UK), over the inclusion of the country on its Red List, stakeholders in the aviation industry have cautioned the government to tread softly on the issue.
According to them, banning carriers from the UK from operating into Nigeria might have adverse effect on air travellers in the country.
A report by tbiafrica.com, said there are indications that Nigeria may be prompted to review the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) with the United Kingdom if it continues to put the country on red list.
Last Saturday the British High Commission, Abuja issued a statement where it confirmed that it had put Nigeria on red list due to Omicron variant of COVID-19, as some Nigerians who returned to the UK were identified to have the variant after undergoing tests.
Being in the red list means that only UK and Irish citizens and residents would be allowed to enter the UK, while others travelling from Nigeria would not be allowed, except on transit at the airside of the airport.
THISDAY gathered that the UK might remove Nigeria from the red list after reviewing its decision on December 20, 2021, but if it retains Nigeria in the list, the federal government might be provoked to review the BASA agreement between the two countries.
Currently no Nigerian owned airline operates to the United Kingdom, but British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways from the UK operate to Nigeria.
Speaking on the matter, the Former acting Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Benedict Adeyileka, told THISDAY that Nigeria should reciprocate in a way that it does not affect its citizens.
Adeyileka said Nigeria does not have Nigerian airlines that currently operate to the UK, so if Nigeria stops UK carriers it means the airfares by other international airlines will become outrageous.
“We can reciprocate in a way that it will not hurt Nigerian travellers. If we stop British airlines from coming to Nigeria, airfares by other airlines will become too high. They will rip-off Nigerians. Lufthansa, Air France, KLM, Qatar, Emirates and others will increase their fares and Nigerians will pay.
“This is why the Nigerian government should help our indigenous airlines to be allowed to operate to these international destinations. It is not just designating them but using diplomatic channels to ensure that they are allowed to operate to international destinations,” Adeyileka said.
He also suggested that if Nigeria wants to reciprocate it could ban travellers from the UK and Canada who do not have Nigerian citizenship by insisting that Nigerians with Nigerian passports, including expired ones should be allowed to enter the country.
“We can stop British and Canadian citizens who come to Nigeria to do business but we cannot stop Nigerians with dual citizenship, otherwise your policy will hurt Nigerians.
THISDAY learnt that the UK – Nigeria BASA was signed in 1988, and has been amended by Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) that contain the following provisions: first, on the designation provision, the agreement allows each country to designate up to three airlines; on the UK side, currently there are BA, BMI and Virgin, while for the Nigeria side, the current designate includes Arik Air, Air Nigeria and KaboAirline (a designation exists for Bellview, but this airline has long ceased operations).
Secondly, on traffic rights, the agreement allowed the UK airlines to operate scheduled services on the following routes: points in UK – (intermediate points) Abidjan, Accra – Kano, Lagos and Abuja – (points beyond) Abidjan, Accra, Douala, Harare, Lusaka and Libreville. Nigerian designated airlines have the following routes available to them: points in Nigeria – (intermediate points) Rome, Paris, Zurich, Frankfurt – London and Manchester – (points beyond) Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Moscow.
The Nigerian airlines in the agreement that ought to reciprocate the British carriers that operate to Nigeria do not have the capacity to do so and except Arik Air, which successfully operated the rout until it was stopped in 2017 by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) when the airline went under receivership, none of the other airlines operated to UK from Nigeria.
But Medview Airline operated Lagos-London for few months until it was stopped by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
Major industry operator who wish to remain anonymous, told THISDAY that what Nigeria needs is to be more transparent in the enforcement of its COVID-19 protocol, to ensure that it strictly follows the rules and has proper documentation of deaths from the virus, number of people vaccinated, investigate those alleged to be issuing fake certificates and deal ruthlessly with them.
An operator who do not want his name in print said Nigeria should also ensure that there is efficient facility that meet international standard for the storage of COVID-19 vaccines and also ensure effective distribution.
On reviewing the BASA agreement, he said that it would not be wise to stop British carriers from coming to Nigeria because it would make travel difficult for Nigerians, noting also that for Nigerian airlines to seize the opportunity offered by the BASA agreement, it ought to meet British and European safety standards.
“What we need to do is to be honest with ourselves. We are aware that Nigerians are flouting the COVID-19 protocols, churches have started and other activities that bring people together are going on. We hope UK will lift Nigeria from the list on December 20, but we should also assure them that we are doing the right thing,” the source said.