By Louis Iba
THE decision of the Federal Government to seal a Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) with Qatar is not going down well with some stakeholders in the aviation industry who are faulting the deal as “bad economics” and “inimical to efforts to grow the Nigerian industry.”
They also demanded that ticket sales tax be increased from five per cent to 10 per cent to enable the government benefit from some of the BASAs in which Nigeria lacked the capacity to reciprocate.
Recall that last Sunday in Doha, President Muhammadu Buhari and the Emir of Qatar, Shiekh Tamim Al-Thani, had signed the BASA which allows direct flight operations between major cities of both countries. The BASA is also expected to be operated on the basis of reciprocity by the designated carriers on behalf of the two states.
But stakeholders, who met at a breakfast meeting yesterday in Lagos under the aegis of Aviation Round Table (ART), said the government was wrong to have gone ahead with the deal given that Nigeria had neither a national carrier nor a viable indigenous airline to reciprocate any BASA with Qatar Air.
An official of one of Nigeria’s domestic airlines told Daily Sun that the BASA with Qatar would not aid the growth of the local airline industry already immersed in financial crisis.
Said the official who wouldn’t want to be named: “Qatar has an airline that already operates seven frequencies into Nigeria and there is no Nigerian carrier that is reciprocating by going to Qatar.
“And when you sign another BASA that increases their frequencies to more Nigerian cities, what that implies is that if Qatar now flies out of Port Harcourt, Kano, Abuja, and Lagos, you are running the local airline industry aground because the revenue that they made flying those passengers for example from Port Harcourt to Lagos or Kano to Lagos will now be taken up by a foreign airline. The deal is inimical to the efforts to grow the Nigerian industry,” he added.
Arnold Demuren, former Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), who also decried the Nigeria–Qatar BASA said: “It may be a good government policy, but it is bad economics on the part of Nigeria.”
“BASA is supposed to be to the benefit of two countries and not one sided. In Nigeria we don’t have the capacity, the airlines, nor the personel to reciprocate the BASA with Qatar. And so we cant even compete with them,” said Demuren.”