Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has threatened to sue the Federal Government over continued multiple entries granted to foreign airlines into various international airports in the country.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has defended the multiple entry points it granted to foreign airlines, saying it will generate revenue for the country.
The President of AON, Alhaji Yunusa Abdulmunaf, made this known during its First Quarter Breakfast Business Meeting in Lagos on Thursday.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the event was organised by the Aviation Round Table (ART) with the theme: ‘Economic Implications of Multiple Entry Points by Foreign Airlines Into Nigeria.”
NAN reports that the Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, had said that although the multiple entries granted to foreign airlines was good for the economy, it was putting pressure on the country’s foreign exchange.
Abdulmunaf said that the body has decided to challenge government in the court of law on the current policy should the multiple entries granted to airlines was not addressed.
The president, represented by Mr Allen Onyema, Vice President of AON, said that the body would in the next few days meet with the aviation minister to deliberate on the issue.
He lamented that billions of naira was being lost annually to multiple designations granted the foreign carriers.
Abdulmunaf warned that if the policy continued unabated, the domestic airlines would die, while the foreign airlines would eventually take over the domestic market.
The AON chief insisted that the multiple designations was one of the greatest disservices to the Nigerian economy and its people.
He said: “All the foreign airlines that come into Nigeria every day, the Central Bank Governor cries about the amount of money being repatriated abroad.
“We are talking about the scarcity of foreign exchange in the country, but the foreign airlines are removing billions of dollars every year from this country.
“Whereas, airlines in the country have been hassled with lots of requests on how to repatriate dollars into the system. Where am I going to get it from?
“Yet, we are creating more avenues for these things to happen by giving multiple destinations to these foreign airlines.
“All the foreign airlines that come to this country, maybe about 20 or 30 of them have not been able to employ more than 150,000 Nigerians.”
Abdulmunaf noted that Air Peace alone employs over 4,000 people directly, adding that it would take foreign airlines another 60 years to generate 4,000 jobs.
Also, Dr Gabriel Olowo, President of ART, said that foreign airlines were gradually taking over the domestic market with continuous approvals for multiple entries.
“The damages of multiple entries into Nigeria is huge. Britain for instance has 21 flights into Nigeria weekly.
“European Unions have 43 frequencies every week into Nigeria. Also the Middle East has 56 flights weekly into multiple entries into Nigeria.”
Olowo noted that, as things are today, the country had zero participation in the international sector as an industry and the domestic sector was eroded through multiple entries into Nigeria.
The Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, defended Federal Government position on Thursday during the 1st Quarter Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI) Business Breakfast Meeting in Lagos.
Sirika, represented by Group Capt. John Ojikutu, the Chief Executive Officer, Centurion Aviation Security and Safety Consult, said these entries will help domestic airlines to improve their distribution and connection opportunities.
According to him, the granting of multiple entry points to foreign airlines into the country has been an issue of contention in the industry.
The minister noted that granting of multiple designations also opens up prospects to domestic airlines, adding that it also improves their market by distributing passengers for connection.
“Multiple entry points are granted to foreign airlines based on the nature of their Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreements (BASAs).
“This will expands the business and grow the economy of foreign airlines. The idea was to generate revenue for the country.
“Foreign airlines are able to land at different airports connecting different area of the country to foreign countries, thereby promoting commercial trade, tourism and friendly relations,” he said.
Sirika reeled out some obvious disadvantages of the move but still said there were things to gain.
The minister, however, noted that granting of entry into more than two airports could expose foreign airlines to domestic routes.
He said it would therefore affect the domestic markets of the domestic airlines and this had its negative implications.
According to him, multiple entry is also against the Carbotage Act, which does not allow the airlines to generate much needed revenue that will help in their growth.
The minister said domestic airlines stand to gain from opportunities created by International airlines distributing passengers for connection with these airlines.
Nevertheless, there are prospects for domestic airlines as they have opportunities for improved domestic markets by distributing International passengers for connection with these airlines.
“The grant of entry points to foreign airlines should also be such that they are given multiple entries, to either Lagos or Abuja and not Lagos and Abuja.
“This is in addition to any other airports outside the geographical area of the first choice of Lagos and Abuja, e.g Port Harcourt, Kano and Enugu. “In this way, they do not take over all the businesses on all the International Airports,”