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Nigeria: Airline operators call for level playing field in Single African Air Transport Market

Airline operators have requested the Federal Government to produce a level playing field for airlines that would allow the full benefits of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).

Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) Executive Chairman, Captain Nogie Meggison, remarked that Nigerian airlines could only take full advantage of the said policy if the government placed the onus on the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) to see to it that uniform navigation charges are implemented by countries that signed on for the agreement.

Instead of launching policies that will drive the growth of indigenous carriers, Meggison remarked that Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, is lobbing numbers around that indicated what airlines owed to government agencies.

He argued the said figures, and called for transparency and accountability in the billing system by aviation agencies.

Meggison also spoke against the comments made by Sirika, who boldly claimed that indigenous carriers were far too feeble to hold their own against other continental carriers.

Sirika also alleged that Nigerian carriers used the wrong operational model that would not make them compete favorably enough to take advantage of the African Open Skies pact.

Sirika added that instead of getting their act together, Nigerian operators were too busy making complaints and accruing debt that is running into N516 billion.

An attitude like that against government agencies would be taken sitting down, asserted Sirika.

He said such attitude against government agencies would not be tolerated.

“For the new policy to work, Africa Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) should provide a level playing field because every member country should charge the same amount from one country to another.

“In Nigeria, an airline borrows money at 24 per cent interest rate, pay five per cent to the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), and also five per cent value added tax but these are waived by government of other countries for their own airlines.”

Former Vice-Chairman of Arik Air Senator, Anietie Okon, stressed that Nigeria is not ready for the SAATM because of protectionist policies that were established by some African countries.

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