Olisa Agbakoba & Associates (OA&A) a reputable law firm specializing in Public Sector Advocacy and Development organized an Aviation Forum 2012 with the topic: – EMERGING ISSUES IN THE NIGERIAN AVIATION SECTOR: NEED FOR AVIATION CABOTAGE.
The event was co-sponsored by Arik Air Nigeria Limited and was attended by 71 participants including representatives of the Airlines, Aviation Industry, Federal Government Agencies, House of Representatives, Regulators and the Media. Honourable Bethel Amadi, Chairman House Committee on National Planning & Economic Development chaired the two sessions. He was joined by Mrs. Olabisi Akodu, a partner at Olisa Agbakoba, Mr. Lanre Bamgbose, representing Arik Air, Mrs. Anthonia Vincent representing the Director-General Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Mr. Kinfe Kahssaye Managing Director Air Nigeria and Mr. Roland Ohaeri Editor, Aviation & Allied Business Publications.
The second session was an interactive session and various stakeholders in the industry were given an opportunity to comment and make constructive suggestions regarding the implementation of a robust strategy to develop Nigeria’s Aviation industry.
The following observations were made from the deliberations:
The nation has capacity building issues and needs to prioritize and seek ways to solve this problem.
The Nigerian Aviation industry in its present state is not profitable, therefore not attractive to foreign investors. Examples were given to support the position that Government’s support through fiscal policy will be required to turn the sector around.
The sum of N49 Billion has been earmarked for the development of 22 airports in Nigeria by the Nigerian Government. It was argued that these funds could be better utilized in bringing the few existing airports up to international standard, taking into consideration the need to improve operational, safety measures, and security.
The NCAA now has a directorate responsible for consumer protection. All grievances regarding flight delays, refunding tickets and customer care can be routed through the directorate. It was stated that passengers have legal rights since the air ticket is a contractual document and if there is any breach, same should be addressed without resorting to verbal and other abuse which often takes place at our airports between passengers and airline staff.
There is the urgent need to review all institutional, legal and regulatory frameworks pertaining to the Aviation sector.
There is the need to address major infrastructural issues to compliment the smooth operations of airline operators.
The participants made the following recommendations:
The draft of the proposed Fly Nigeria Act should be presented to the National Assembly as soon as possible. The Act requires government funded air travel to originate and terminate on a Nigerian flag carrier.
Steps should be taken to ensure that the Fly Nigeria Act is enforced and that the media should be carried along at all stages to prevent misrepresentation and that Government patronage on Nigerian carriers is key. There should be caution in terms of Code-share agreements so as not to displace Market forces.
There is the need for more budgetary allocations as the Aviation industry requires immense capital and there is also the need to increase and improve the facilities to meet international standards.
Lessons should be learned from the Coastal Inland Shipping Act (Cabotage Act) 2003 and plug any seeming loopholes that may crop up in the Fly Nigeria Act seeing that the waiver provisions in the Cabotage Act has been used to flaw the Act, as it allows for foreign vessels to trade in our waters if indigenous vessels do not have the capacity to carry out specific projects.
Charter flights should be included in the Fly Nigeria Act and a similar provision as contained in Section 32 of Cabotage Act, which provides for enforcement officers, should be included in the Fly Nigeria Act.
A Fly Nigeria Act Implementation Committee to be set up.
Travel fares should be transparent and regulating bodies should approve the authenticity of all airline promotions before they are advertised, so as not to deceive the public.
There is the need to build the right partnership to achieve set objectives and the Government should provide infrastructure to meet consumers’ expectations.
A cursory look into Arbitration/Mediation to solve the issue of disputes is a viable alternative to litigation.
The development of a National Aviation Policy is a Federal Government responsibility, hence the need for operators, regulators to join forces with the government to have a Civil Aviation policy that will drive the industry, e.g. a 5-year or 10-year plan that can be reviewed.
There is the need for a complete review of the Open Skies Arrangement and Bilateral Aviation Services Agreements. There is the need to involve lawyers to advise and sit in when such agreements are being proposed to the Government. The Arik Air experience has shown that the BASA’s are not advantageous to Nigerian flag carriers.
Contributors to the discussions stated that there is the need for a deliberate policy to promote growth in the industry. Government should therefore ensure that there are deliberate policies to ensure the protection of local carriers. They also pointed out that we can study what pertains in aviation other African countries.
Participants concluded that partnership of all key players in the Aviation Sector, the Federal Government and Regulatory Agencies, is essential to the development of a world-class aviation industry.
Phase two of this project will be the presentation of the Fly Nigeria Act to the National Assembly.
OLISA AGBAKOBA & ASSOCIATES
Public Sector Development Group
March 14, 2012
Being the Text of Communique Issued At The Aviation Forum On Emergin Issues In The Nigerian Aviation Sector: Need For Aviation Cabotage Held On February 21st 2012 At The Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja