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The sleeping giant rumbles: Nigeria reads Riot Act to BA & Virgin Airlines!

November 22, 2011

Arts & Culture

Pay compensation or face consequences, FG warns BA, Virgin Atlantic

 

By Kenneth Ehigiator, Vanguard, November 18, 2011

 

 

LAGOS — The Federal Government, yesterday, dared British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways to refuse to compensate Nigerians for their unfair method of competition, deceptive practices and violation of Nigerian law and be prepared to face the consequences.

 

Government had, through the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Wednesday, ordered the two British carriers to pay $235 million to Nigerians as compensation.

But government’s latest tough stance on the issue arose out of the defiant response of British Airways which rejected the order amid declarations that it would vigorously defend its position on the matter.

 

BA had said in a statement last night: “We reject the allegations made by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and we are vigorously defending our position. We remain committed to Nigeria and have been flying there for more than 75 years. We pride ourselves on offering competitive fares, a choice of products and connections to our Nigerian customers.”

 

But speaking with Vanguard on the telephone last night, Director-General of the NCAA, Dr. Harold Demuren, insisted that the two British carriers must pay up, but said government was keeping to its chest what action to take if the airlines failed to obey the directive.

 

He noted that if the British Airways could pay compensation ordered by the US government as a result of its illegal fuel surcharge imposed on American citizens, it must pay up in Nigeria.

 

He said: “They charged them for unnecessary fuel surcharge in America and they paid, why shouldn’t they pay here? Their unnecessary fuel surcharge on Nigerians is a rip off. We must protect Nigerians’ interest.

 

“We are opposed to unfair, discriminatory and abuse of dominant position. We must protect our citizens. The Nigerian market is open to exploration but opposed to exploitation.”

 

He noted that commercial air operations was founded on reciprocity between and among countries, stressing that a situation where some airlines now dominate others in violation of laid down principles was not acceptable.

 

Asked what government would do should the two airlines refuse to heed its order, Demuren said: “You wait and see what happens. We are keeping what we will do to our chest but they must pay.” That is our position.”

The row between Nigeria and Britain started earlier in the month, following the muscling of Arik Air out of Heathrow Airport in London through slot allocation, a move that was said to have been instigated by British Airways, and this compelled the Nigerian carrier to shut down its Abuja-London operation on October 29.

As a retaliatory measure, the federal government immediately slashed British Airways’ frequencies on its Lagos-London operation to three from seven.

 

Consequently, officials of both countries have been locked in marathon negotiations which have remained inconclusive.

 

 

The Nigeria, UK BASA row

 

On November 18, 2011 · In Editorial

 

 

FOR ages, especially since the once prosperous Nigeria Airways sank into oblivion, Nigerian air travellers to foreign countries have routinely suffered untold hardship in the hands of foreign airlines.

 

The British Airways (BA) has always stood out as the worst culprit. Nigerian travellers have always complained and nobody seemed interested in addressing their grievances.

The situation boiled over recently when British Airways, in contravention of the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) signed between Nigeria and the United Kingdom, unilaterally cut the frequency of flights of Nigeria’s foremost carrier, Arik Air, to London Heathrow Airport from seven to three, while it continued to enjoy its own seven slots on the same route. BA apparently took the step as “retaliation” for Arik’s lower charges, which yielded for the Nigerian carrier a larger and increasing number of customers, some of whom were BA’s regular flyers.

 

Arik raised the alarm, and for once, the Ministry of Aviation rose in defence of our national interest. BA’s slots were also slashed to three on its weekly London-Lagos route. In addition, BA is now to arrive in Lagos by 6.00 am as opposed to 6.00pm, same as Nigerian carriers, which are required by the British authorities to enter London in time for the start of business everyday. BA is also now to depart for London by 11.30pm.

The Minister of Aviation, Princess Oduah Ogiemwonyi, has also directed that all British carriers, particularly BA, must eliminate the discriminatory regional tariffs, which see Nigeria-bound travellers paying far more than their peers travelling to nearby countries over equivalent distances.

 

As a result of these steps, BA lobbied the British Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron, to intervene on its behalf. The British leader contacted President Goodluck Jonathan seeking a resolution of the row, upon which the president directed the Minister, Ogiemwonyi, to grant one week extension to BA to enable the two countries iron out their differences.

 

Even though some commentators, especially experts in the industry have sharply criticised aspects of the measures imposed on BA, especially with regard to the length of time their planes have to stay on ground before returning to London, Nigerians are full of appreciation for the uncommon responsiveness of the federal government to a measure that not only threatened our economic national interests but also added to the longstanding tradition of dehumanisation of Nigeria travellers by BA.

 

The brazen disrespect for the terms of the BASA by the British side and BA’s treatment of Nigerians as if they are still under their colonial subjugation had to be halted sooner than later. We commend the Nigerian authorities for taking the bull by the horn. We hope by the time the ongoing negotiations by the two sides are concluded. Nigerian travellers and national carriers can look forward to fairer and more dignified treatment. That is what good governance is all about.

 

We join stakeholders in the aviation sector to call for total overhaul of the BASA pacts that Nigeria has entered into with foreign countries, which are known to be generally to the disadvantage of Nigerian carriers. There are abundant evidences that this situation is so because some top officials within our aviation industry are involved in unholy collusion with these foreign interests to the detriment of our national interests.

We therefore urge the federal government to go beyond this tit-for-tat exchange with BA and look into the industry to identify the bad eggs that have made it possible for foreign airliners to hold our people to ransom in flagrant violation of the BASA’s.

 

More efforts must be applied to ensuring that Nigerians are given courteous services on air routes between some of these Western countries and Nigeria. We hope this highly commendable proactive response by government to this outrage is not a flash in the pan.

We hope it is part of bold step towards repositioning our aviation industry in line with our aspiration to emerge among the most developed economies of the world within the next nine years

 

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4 Comments on “The sleeping giant rumbles: Nigeria reads Riot Act to BA & Virgin Airlines!”

  1. Fatai Bakare Says:

    Tolly, Sorry calling you by this name. I am an admirer of you with your down-right approach to National issues without fear. Well, do you not think that the way Nigeria as a nation and her nationals are treated is right? What parastatal can we boldly say belongs to us again as a nation right from the Babangida era? Is it railways, airways, shippingline, NAFDAC, NDLEA, boarder security, even the national teams and so on? They have all collapsed and nearly gone into oblivion due to incompetence, indiscipline, self-centeredness and father of all, corruption.

    Please, I am not saying the way Nigeria/Nigerians is/are treated is justifiable, but when one calls his best cloth, a rag, people will accept it like that. How are we not going to be treated unfairly from the other airlines when Nigeria as big as we are and with all our resources do not have a single aircraft flying the National colours? Ghana, Siera Leone, LIbya, Algeria, Morroco, Egypt, Kenya, Uganda to mention a few African nations all have. Britain is a country that likes to exploit people if chances are created for it, either in form of taxes or whatever form. Once money is paid to Britons, to get it back or be refunded will take ages. But before you mention the letter ‘P’ in the word payment, the payment is taken; they are naturally stingy.

    The Aviation Minister and her Ministry are in the right course this time, only they have to stay firm and be unrelenting. After some time BA will budge when it realises that we mean business. What happened in the oil leakage in Mexico Gulf last year is a good pointer. If President Obama had not come out firmly and decisively, BP might not pay the compensation it did. Think of the spillages we have been having in oil rich areas of Nigeria. How much compensation from the oil companies have the areas got?

    Whether BA responds to this payment positively or not, the Aviation Ministry should be ready to upgrade MMA and the Abuja airport to international standard and to have a national carrier even if it is one. MMA cannot hold 20 planes at a time. Nigeria should be re-branded to hold her place as the Giant of Africa. Smaller countries have displaced us from this position. We need positive changes to see us through.

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    • emotan77 Says:

      Thanks, Mr. Bakare, & don’t you worry yourself about being fresh! I’m sure it’s meant as a compliment; you sound like one of my old school mates from the 60s who still believe – as I do – that we are still THERE.

      The Nigerian Situation confounds, believe me. The parastatals you mention are enough to make anyone weep. Just before opening my Blog, I tried to use the Intl airport Ladies’ Room but as usual, there was no bathroom tissue. I asked the bored cleaner where in the world I could get toilet paper and she told me somebody had gone “upstairs to the office” to bring it. Out came a foreign guy who apologized profusely “for keeping you waiting”; he handed a toilet roll to me! I told him not to worry as it was not his fault.

      This has been the case at Murtala Muhammed INTERNATIONAL airport as far back as I can remember. The a/c did not work today as usual but I always take a clean shirt along which I changed into after cleaning. It is not the same, of course, in the lounge to which I could have gone but always choose not to for a personal reason.

      Where do we start – or stop? Regards, TOLA.

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    • STEPHENS F Says:

      I beg to disagree with Fatai’s comments. It is incumbent on us as Nigerians to learn to blow the trumpet of our Nation;not to continue dismembering what is left of her reputation.

      I live in Europe and have met people/ citizen’s of all nations; I will also say with all humility, that I have been exposed to extreme diversity (which means I have related with people from all the Nations on the earth), but one thing I must say (and I stand to be corrected) is that I have never met any man or woman casting aspersion on their own Nation. Even where such nations are known for corruption, drug dealing and all manner of criminal indulgence.

      People try to sell their countries, but Nigerian are the only people that say unwholesome and demeaning things about our nation. We should desist from such atitude.

      You don’t tear your father’s house down, no matter the problems in it. We as Nigerians should be public relation officers of our Nation anywhere we are/go. Make and wear Tshirt with our National inscriptions, and if you cannot do that, then, speak well about our Nation and in not too long, you will see outsiders say the same about us.

      Our problems is not extraordinary, but our people are yet to understand International branding. Sell your nation with your own mouth. I am aware that some nations are ahead of Nigeria in corruption rating, but I have met citizens of these leading corruption countries, and all thay have to say about their countries are good things; and for that reason, we see them differently here in europe, but our own people condemn our country, fail to acknowledge meaningful developments and genuine efforts of our government. This must change.

      I have been to Nigeria recently, and I was very happy with the development I saw, but I was shocked when another friend went to Nigeria, but only came and started recounting woes, I had to as him if he went to a different Nigeria. Let us change our attitude.

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      • emotan77 Says:

        Thanks, Mr. Stephen. Rebranding, as has been done by Professor Akunyili, will never succeed. Of course there are “developments” in Nigeria but if you send someone to the market with N5000 and all he/she can show are two slabs of ponmo a piece of frozen fish and peppers, I bet you would not have generous words for the person. state governors are reported to have looted tens of billions of Naira EACH when state development does not show half of what a state governor has stolen for himself. Your faith in the system is needed just as the critical Bakares’ approach are very much needed. You saw a part of Nigeria that has all those glittering buildings and businesses owned for the most part by individuals who have benefitted from the system. Regards, TOLA.

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