As some of the key aviation stakeholders in the Nigerian aviation industry continue to kick against multiple entry ports for foreign airlines, the Federal Government has further added more designations to international carriers operating into the country.
At the inaugural flights of Uganda Airlines into the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos on Thursday night, the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Mr. Festus Keyamo said that the Federal Government has approved the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja and Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA), Kano to the routes of the airline in Nigeria.
With this, Uganda Airlines, which began three weekly flights into Nigeria on Thursday, would now have access to additional two entries in the country.
Already, as of October 2021, Nigeria’s Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) arrangements with other countries had climbed to 95.
Reports claimed that only about 30 of the arrangements are active, while a very few Nigerian carriers like Air Peace are currently taking part in the frequencies.
Despite the absence of reciprocity by Nigeria and its carriers, pressures are still mounted on the Federal Government especially by State Governors, legislators and some professionals in the sector to approve more foreign airlines to fly directly into various states and airports in the country, irrespective of its effect on the nation’s carriers and employment opportunities for qualified personnel.
Most of the foreign airlines operate into multiple designations in Nigeria with plans to further increase their frequencies and presence in the country.
No fewer than 11 foreign carriers, including Qatar Airways, Emirates and Ethiopian Airlines and British Airway are operating additional 70 frequencies to Nigeria weekly with operations to several cities across the country.
Also, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Africa World Airlines; Turkish Airlines and Asky Airlines, among others are among the carriers with multiple operations into Nigeria.
Keyamo who was represented at the occasion by Mr. Hassan Ejibunu, the Director, Transport Management, Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace Management, said that the approval of the additional entry ports to Uganda Airlines was in agreement with the spirit of Single Africa Air Transport Market (SAATM) and the Yamoussoukro Declaration (YD).
Keyamo also said that the approval would also make the Nigeria-Uganda route more open, accessible for passengers to and from Eastern and Western Africa and beyond.
He further said that this was necessary in order to protect the interest of the continents over 1.37 billion people, which is about 17.4 per cent of the world’s population.
The minister also challenged the indigenous airline operators to seize the opportunity offered by SAATM and YD to start operating regional and continental flights, stressing that this would also lead to the full implementation of the African Union Agenda 2063.
Also speaking, Jenifer Bamuturaki, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Uganda Airlines, expressed delight with the commencement of the flight.
Bamuturaki, explained that the direct non-stop flight would further reduce the flying time within Africa, especially between Nigeria and Uganda.
She regretted that in some cases, travellers from the continent connect Africa through Europe, a situation which she said added to the cost of flying.
She added that Nigeria being the biggest economy on the continent needed an airline like Uganda Airline for further easy exploration and seamless connectivity of passengers.
According to her, for a start, the airline would operate three weekly frequencies from its base in Entebbe; Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays to Nigeria, while the outward flight would be the same day.
Amb. Nelson Ocherger, Uganda’s High Commissioner to Nigeria, also expressed joy over the inaugural flight of Uganda Airlines to Lagos, saying the approval by the Nigerian government would open a vista of business opportunities to both nations.
He further stated that the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) exists on reciprocity, adding that his country was awaiting when Nigerian carriers would commence services to Uganda.
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