Nigeria Needs A National Carrier Not Ultimatum



In very strong language, the Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Stella Oduah, at the weekend, ordered foreign airlines operating in the country to crash their fares within 30 days or be booted out. Rather than spit fire, we expect the minister to focus on setting up a national carrier for Nigeria. Issuing threats to foreign airlines over airfares is like chasing shadows at the expense of the substance.

Oduah has accused foreign airlines of charging higher air fares in Nigeria, far above what they charge in other West African countries such as Ghana. She said the fare disparity must stop and Nigerians must be accorded equal respect.

She argued that her decision to issue an ultimatum to foreign airlines, especially British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, was sequel to delay tactics by these airlines to stop fare disparity in Nigeria.

The British government on Monday warned that it would take retaliatory steps against Nigerian airlines, if the federal government bans the British Airways and Virgin Atlantic over fare disparity.

The British Airways had earlier said in a statement that all its fares were competitive and on a sound commercial basis.

Britain said only business and first class fares were more expensive to Nigerians than neighbouring West African countries because of high demand for those seats.

The Senate yesterday mandated its committee on Aviation to probe the airfare disparity charged by foreign airlines in Nigeria.

The move followed a motion raised by Senator Hope Uzodinma who noted that British Airways and Virgin Atlantic airways are charging arbitrary fees from Nigerian travellers over and above rates charged by them on routes of same or equal distance outside Nigeria.

There are many factors that determine airfares in a country such as passenger traffic, business risk, security, insurance policy and competition,

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We believe that the minister is wrong in words and in deeds. Banning British Airways and Virgin Atlantic from Nigeria would break a bilateral air services agreement between both countries. It would not also solve the country’s aviation woes.

The expensive airfare charges on Business Class on British Airways and Virgin Atlantic affect mainly government officials.

They are the ones who fly regularly to the United Kingdom with a cornucopia of aides and family members for either holiday, medical treatment or on courses, most times, on Business Class.

We agree with retired Group Captain, Mr. John Ojikutu, that we cannot regulate a market we do not control. We believe that the minister’s threats are inconsequential in a market where there is no competition.

It is shameful that Nigeria, the so-called giant of Africa, does not boast of a national carrier and does not even have a competitive airline.

Nigeria Airways, Nigeria’s erstwhile national carrier, was mismanaged, with its assets either stolen or sold at give away prices and as a result Nigerians now depend mostly on foreign airlines for air travels

We call on the minister to focus on establishing a new national carrier for Nigeria to stimulate competition and focus on safety and improvement of the country’s dilapidated aviation facilities.


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