•Rejects Arik Air as national carrier
From ADETUTU FOLASADE-KOYI, Abuja
Senate has stepped down the report of its Aviation Committee for failing to address disparity in air fares charged by foreign airlines. In returning the report, Senate also noted that the committee went beyond its brief by recommending that Arik Air be granted National Flag Carrier status.
Some senators also slammed the Hope Uzodinma- led committee for not spotting the inadequacies in the extant aviation laws which are exploited by foreign airlines to the detriment of Nigerians. Senate President David Mark urged the committee to investigate the claims that the Aviation Ministry is deliberately barring some foreign airlines from the Abuja-Kano routes.
Said Mark: “I have not seen in this report where you have explained the difference in price in airlines that exists between flying to Accra-London, Lagos-London or Abuja-London. “You addressed it in the other volume but what I have not found here is the recommendations to remedy it because it is ongoing. I know we are talking of anti-trust laws but that is not the issue.
If this has happened in the U.S., all those who had paid in the past, wouldn’t they have asked them to refund their money one way or the other? Secondly, weak as the laws may be, they are not being fully implemented because it is this partial implementation of the weak laws that is giving you the authority to recommend some reform here.
So, we already have problems with implementing laws we put in place. “When we say we want to allow competition in the system, let us provide conducive environment for everybody to have a fair deal in the competition. There are questions, in my opinion, you need to go back to answer. You need to go back and bring very critical recommendations that will make us change the aviation industry. “As it is at the moment, there are very, many problems. Of course, one of them is to reorganise our airports properly.
The airport we have at the moment, for foreign airlines to come here, they are doing us a favour because as soon as you get to our airport, you see the chains of confusion. We also need to do our home work properly before pointing accusing fingers or blaming others for our problems. Replying, Sen. Uzodinma noted that Arik Air was recommended to break the monopoly of British Airways (BA) flying directly into Heathrow.
“What we can do immediately is that while trying to get NCAA to come up with clear-cut economic regulatory framework, to check excessive charges of BA, Nigerians should be given an opportunity for a choice, to see another airline that can carry them directly from Nigeria to London because 70 per cent of passengers leaving here are going to London and outside British Airways, they have to fly other airlines that are not going directly.
“More importantly, there are cogent issues raised here and the committee should sit down to address the issues as holistically as it can so that by the time we go through the recommendations and resolutions, we will know we have done the best we could,” Uzodinma said. Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu saved the day for Uzodinma with a motion that the report be returned for fine-tuning by the committee. Senator James Manager seconded it.