Nigeria needs a strong flag carrier to be able to play a pivotal role in the emerging African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), says the new Chairman of the House Committee on Aviation, Nnolim Nnaji.
Nnaji who stated this while interacting with aviation correspondents at the weekend in Lagos, lamented that the country was unable to tap the African aviation market in recent years despite the huge daily passenger traffic out of Nigeria’s airports owing to the absence of a strong national or flag carrier.
He however assured that the House of Representatives will work closely with the Executive arm of government to throw up strong flag carriers that would represent the country effectively in the international market.
“Floating a fully government owned airline may not be an alternative, but we will work closely with the Executive arm of the government to ensure that competent local airlines are supported to assume the status of flag carriers and operate internationally,” said Nnaji.
‘We all know the important role aviation plays in stimulating international trade, so if we must be relevant in the AFCFTA initiative, our aviation must be of global standards in every respect ,” he added.
Nnaji who represents Nkanu East/Nkanu West Federal Constituency, in Enugu State also expressed concern that most of the foreign carriers operating into the country are exploiting Nigerians with very exorbitant fares because of the lack of a strong national or flag carrier.
“I have also discovered that all the foreign airlines maintain city offices where they sale tickets directly to passengers as against what obtains globally thereby denying our local travel agents the opportunity of earning legitimate commissions that would have reduced capital flights and provided employment for our people,” he added.
Nnaji said the House of Representatives plans to invite the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, (NCAA) to explain the reasons for the anomaly.
He also assured that the House of Reps Committee on Aviation will partner with relevant industry agencies to make the country’s airspace safer for the flying public.