The Nigerian Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Muhammed Rimi, has bemoaned the inability of local airlines to operate the Lagos – Abuja – Dubai route successfully, noting that the trend was inimical to the economy of the country given the terms of the Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) with the UAE which gave four slots to airlines from both countries.
The airline recorded an unprecedented 316 passengers on its inaugural flight on the 324- seater Boeing 777-300 aircraft deployed on the route.
Rimi who spoke at a dinner organised to welcome the Air Peace Airlines inaugural flight on the Lagos – Sharjah – Dubai route expressed worry over the losses to the country in terms of capital flight and jobs and pledged to support Air Peace operate the route to cut down on the monopoly of the gulf carriers – Etihad and Emirates.
“We have about four slots for Nigerian airlines in the UAE, but unfortunately this is not being reciprocated,” said Rimi.
“The Federal Government will provide diplomatic and political support for the private sector to do the BASA with UAE. I know that there is a lot of competition on the route, but the market exists,” he said.
The Nigerian envoy to the UAE also made an appeal to the Ministry of Transport to designate Air Peace as a national carrier on the Nigeria – UAE route.
“To Air Peace, I say if you survive it in the next six months, you will survive it longer,” Rimi added.
Managing Director/CEO of Air Peace, Mr. Allen Onyema, in his speech said the airline can only survive on the Lagos-Dubai route with the strong backing of the Nigerian government. Onyema decried the granting of two slots daily on the Lagos – Dubai route to Emirates, and one slot on the Abuja – Dubai route to the same airline, while Etihad had one slot daily on the Lagos – Dubai route. According to him, such multiple designation was enough to strangulate any Nigerian carrier competing on the same route with the gulf airlines.
Onyema who said the management of the airline was overwhelmed with the number of passengers on its inaugural trip, noted the passion with which Nigerians are ready to fly their own carrier on international routes where it is provided.
He said Air Peace in its four years of operation had created direct employment to over 3,000 Nigerians and indirect employment to 4,000 others and he urged the government to take proactive steps to protect the airline in its foray into the Lagos – Sharjah – Dubai route.
“We will thrive better and continue to provide employment to the teeming Nigerian youths, if we are supported by government as the airlines in other climes are,” Onyema said.
“Without this support of the Nigerian government, they will come after us. And I cannot pretend to say we can survive without the assistance of the government, no matter how hard we try,” he added.