The Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) has spurned the proposed Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) and then, urged the Federal Government to not sign any treaty that would impact the future of Nigeria.
Capt. Nogie Megisson, the Chairman of the AON, explained that the country needs to establish a policy that would aid local carriers first before even discussing the possibility of open skies.
Megisson made the comments during the sensitization workshop on the implementation of SAATM organized by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
The Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, had vowed his government’s commitment to the implementation of the SAATM wherein 22 other African states have already signed into.
The SAATM’s implementation would begin next month.
The SAATM is the follow-up to the implementation of the much talked-about 1998 Yamoussoukro declaration, which liberalized air transport on the continent.
Sirika, who was represented by the Managing Director of the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Capt. Fola Akinkuotu, remarked that the SAATM would bolster air connectivity and improve passenger numbers in the years to come.
“We must all therefore strive to commit to the full implementation and operationalization of SAATM, we need to leap forward so as to become an effective global competitor in aviation.
“In this regard, Nigeria being one of the pioneer Member States signatories to YD, one of the 23 states that have so far made solemn commitment to the implementation of SAATM by 2018 has constituted a National implementation committee to review all the subsisting Bilateral Air Services Agreements (BASAs) to be in consonance with the YD while the process of domesticating the decision is currently at the advance stage.”
But Megisson countered that local carriers are opposed to the open sky agreement until all issues that impact the growth of Nigerian airlines such as multiple charges, are tackled and subsequently resolved.
“We are happy that we are looking at an open skies policy. But I believe the genuineness must be shown. I think we need to pause and take a look at it.
“The decision we are going to take on this issue is a treaty or a bilateral service agreement (BASA). I believe if you are going to sign a BASA, we should take the technical side of the Nigerian team and the Nigerians representing aviation to go on a clean book and discuss with the other side.
“America and Europe do not have an open skies policy. Why are we rushing for an open skies policy? We must think as Nigerians and put Nigeria first. If we open the sky, what advantage are we bringing to Nigeria?”