The establishment of a national carrier will enable Nigeria to benefit from the opportunities associated with the Single African Air Transport Market, the Federal Government has said.
SAATM is an initiative of the African Union to create a single unified air transport market in Africa to advance the liberalisation of civil aviation in Africa and act as a catalyst to the continent’s economic integration agenda.
Twenty-three African countries, including Nigeria, adopted SAATM in 2015 to implement the Yamoussoukro Decision, which was created to lift restrictions in open skies among African countries.
The Ministry of Aviation, in its recent roadmap status, indicated that about $250m was to be raised to start up the airline by private investors, adding that the establishment of a national carrier would enable Nigeria to gain optimal benefits from Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement and take full advantage of SAATM.
Industry experts have described BASA and SAATM as important agreements needed more in Nigeria now than before.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, announced last year the bilateral air agreement signed with the United States, India, Morocco and Rwanda.
According to the information obtained from the Nigerian Civil Aviation on Friday, the current number of air services agreements in Nigeria is 89.
When contacted, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Aviation, James Oduadu, told our correspondent that the establishment of the national carrier would help Nigeria expand into the routes in the BASA agreements.
He said, “The country has entered into a lot of BASA agreements with other countries. Some of these routes included in the BASA have not been serviced by the Nigerian carriers mostly because of lack of capacity.
“We believe that the establishment of the national carrier will greatly reduce the incidence of non-servicing of these routes. Imagine where you have a BASA with America using American airlines to fly into these routes, but you do not have a Nigerian airline doing the opposite. The establishment of a national carrier will greatly address that.”
He added that SAATM would address the issue of restrictions of flying into other African countries.
Oduadu said, “SAATM will open the airspace to all carriers within the region, meaning that carriers from one country should be free to fly to other destinations.
“Nigeria is a very large market that everyone wants to exploit. But then you don’t have a national carrier to go into those countries to exploit opportunities the same way they do ours.
When asked about the progress made so far towards establishing the national carrier, Oduadu said, “We are still working towards that, and I do not think there is anything that will stop it. Everything is on course towards the establishment of the airline. The minister is committed, the government is committed.
“Recently the minister gave the first quarter of next year for the airline to come on stream.”
The Managing Partner of Aglow Aviation Support Services Limited, Tayo Ojuri, told our correspondent that the opening of Nigerian air space to other African countries would help to drive connectivity, improve travel and the economy.
He said, “There is no better time than now because of the COVID-19. What has picked up after COVID-19 has been domestic and intra-regional travel. With SAATM, we are going to see a lot of intra-regional travel, which will boost the economy and help develop the economy of scale.
“We have a lot of manufacturing in Southern Africa and South Africa, and we have resources as well. We would be able to take resources from these places. Apart from the resources, we have more market and consuming power in West and Central Africa which would enable us to move these goods and cargo from Southern Africa to West Africa and vice versa.”