As the deadline by Nigeria’s Federal Government to the United Kingdom’s mega carrier, British Airways (BA) to reduce its flight frequencies from seven to three times a week expires tomorrow, Aviation Minister, Princess Stella Oduah yesterday insisted that the British Government was wrong in disrespecting the Bilateral Air Service Agreement signed by both countries.
According to Princess Oduah, the main issue at stake was not how Arik Air was ill treated and elbowed out of the London Heathrow airport by the UK’s Airport Coordination Limited, ACL, but by the way the UK government violated the spirit and letter of BASA which was predicated on the principles of equity, fairness and reciprocity.
She said: “Those who argue that the fate of Arik Air with regard to the loss of its slots into London Heathrow was a consequence of purely independent, commercial decisions by ACL which is in charge of slot allocation into Heathrow are missing the point, if not being entirely mischievous.
“The British authorities are under obligation as far as BASA is concerned to ensure that whatever “independent” and “commercial” decisions are taken by its corporate citizens do not infringe on bilateral agreements. Otherwise, business concerns in the UK and indeed other countries around the world would, as has happened with ACL resort to unfair practices to edge out competition with its indigenous companies.”
Oduah further said the ministry would not stand and watch while Nigerian flag carriers were unfairly treated when BASA clearly states otherwise, stressing that if this was allowed to happen, undesirable precedent would have been set whereby the rights and privileges of Nigerian airlines would blatantly be violated by apparently independent business concerns in other countries other than the UK.
According to the Aviation, “we regret to note that the letter and spirit of BASA has not been respected as far as the treatment of Arik Air is concerned. But it is Arik Air today and it could as well be another Nigerian flag carrier tomorrow. Our position is that whether it is Arik Air or any other Nigerian airline, the reciprocal cornerstone of BASA must be maintained and the Nigerian government is not about to shirk its responsibility to protect its corporate citizens whose rights under BASA are surreptitiously being violated under different guises” Oduah stated.
Oduah added that “discussions between the relevant Nigerian and British authorities are on-going with a view to resolving the present imbroglio in a mutually satisfactory manner. But the point must be made again and again that this is not about Arik Air but about the fair and equitable treatment of Nigerian Flag Carriers in line with BASA agreements”
The Federal Government had on Tuesday, November 8 reduced BA flights frequencies from London Heathrow to Lagos from seven to three times a week but later extended it by one week which will now take effect tomorrow.