By Louis Ibah
Concerned aviation industry stakeholders are pushing for a government policy that would ban top government officials from flying foreign airlines during official trips overseas.
The demand, the stakeholders said, would not only boost patronage for local airlines, but would also go a long way in curbing capital flight in the aviation sector, as well as ensuring better regulation and improved service delivery to passengers. Presently, Medview, Arik Air and Air Peace are the Nigerian carriers flying regional and international routes.
According to the Minister of Women Affairs, Hajia Aisha Jumai Al Hassan, local airlines plying international routes can only survive the competition from foreign airlines if a greater number of Nigerians patronise them.
Al Hassan, who spoke at an event to celebrate Medview Airline’s inaugural flight to Dubai, said the market had become very competitive hence the need for Nigerians to patronise their local airlines to keep them in the sky.
“Any money spent on a ticket on Medview Airlines (a local carrier) is definitely retained in Nigeria,” said Al Hassan in reference to the huge losses suffered by the economy to capital flight in the aviation sector.
About $2 billion is repatriated annually out of Nigeria’s aviation sector as revenues earned by foreign airlines and funds expended by domestic airlines for aircraft maintenance offshore, purchase of spares and emoluments for expatriate workforce.
Aviation analyst, Olu Ohunayo, told Daily Sun that it is the failure to check such huge capital flight from the aviation sector that has seen the naira continuously being weakened. Ohunayo, who is an executive officer with the Aviation Round Table (ART), said one way of curbing the ugly trend was for the government to come up with a “Fly Nigeria Act.”
According to him, the Act when enacted should compel Federal Government officials like ministers, permanent secretaries, heads of parastatals and National Assembly members to fly Nigerian carriers once the journey demands that their airfares be purchased from the government coffers.
Said Ohunayo: “Having considered the inability of our carriers to command presence on the international routes, withdrawal of designated flag carriers on some viable but highly competitive international routes and stronghold on some of these markets by foreign carriers with the accompanying capital flight vis a vis quality of service on the Nigerian route when compared to other routes, I strongly feel the time for a ‘Fly Nigeria Act’ has come.
“The Act will protect and give market share to Nigerian airlines and most importantly public funds will not be frittered and ferried away by foreign airlines but ploughed back into the country by Nigerian airlines. This will generate more employment and revenue in the industry, access to capital, foreign investment, career projection for core professionals and most importantly, ignite a dash for code share and alliance with Nigerian carriers,” he added.