Why do countries set up national carriers?
National carriers are usually set up at the teething stage of a country’s civil c industry. They are sometimes brought back to life, though at great cost and risk to absorb employees of failed major domestic carriers, which provides employment and assuages nerves of restive unions. Also they may be set up to avert monopolistic or weak tendencies of surviving airlines by providing additional fleet, capacity, and frequency in support of other registered carriers or investors. Generally they are regularly propped up with numerous protectionist policies, such as financial aid, palliatives, route exclusivity, privatisation, technical partnership etc.
When these policies fail, the airlines are sold, liquidated or shredded; therefore do we need a national carrier or national aviation policy? A national carrier is limiting as it focuses on the airline and its operations, but a national aviation policy has a national carrier embedded in it and focuses on other components of the industry vis-a-vis socio-economic development. The policy will strengthen the industry and our airlines, the policy should include reduction of taxes, modernisation of ATC, regulatory burden reforms, stabilisaton of aviation fuel prices, provision of market for the flag carriers through a Fly Nigeria Act, infrastructure improvement and certification while also ensuring our carriers consolidate and compete globally.
Who initiates the national aviation policy? The Ministry of Aviation is charged with the overall responsibility of managing aviation policy in the country. It is empowered by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Act of 1964 to make policies guiding air navigation, air transportation, airport development and maintenance, and provide aviation infrastructural service and other needs of the aviation industry.
The Civil Aviation Act 2006 Part 1, Section 1 also states that “The minister shall be responsible for the formulation of policies and strategies for the promotion and encouragement of civil aviation in Nigeria and the fostering of sound economic policies that assure the provision of efficient and safe services by air carriers and other aviation and allied service providers, as well as greater access to air transport in a sustainable manner and to assist with ensuring that Nigeria’s obligations under international agreement are implemented and adhered to.”
This gives us an opportunity to indicate the direction our policy should take for meaningful aviation investment in Nigeria. In doing this we must kick start it with these mantra:
- Analyse past policy documents, identify the positive impact they have made and highlight their deficiencies.
- set a timeline for review of the document
- Consult and engage Stakeholders across board
- Strong will power to implement by the initiator and those for whom it is made with strong sentiment for NATIONAL ABOVE SELF INTEREST
Any attempt at formulating or developing an aviation policy as would encourage investment must address the following:
Funding of Safety and Security
- Inadequate infrastructure certification
- Access to maintenance services
- Rising costs of aviation fuel
- Rising foreign exchange
- Safety regulation
- Labour issues
- Adherence to terms and conditions of agreements
- Retention of “Ease of Doing Business”
- Implementation of the economic regulations guidelines
- Respect for judicial proclamations
- Development of airports (old and new) through PPP
- Establishment of maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) facilities
Simplified ports clearance, expeditious grant of land on generous terms
- Aggressive review of bilateral traffic rights
- Regional connectivity scheme- tax incentives for all airlines operating on hitherto underserved routes
A well-articulated and consistent air transport policy is very critical to Nigeria’s long term development. However, it should be formulated to form part of a transport chain. Aviation has always been treated as a stand-alone rather than being part of a seamless all inclusive transport chain. Therefore, the required policy direction at this point in time should support the airlines and improve the socio economic conditions.
All nations have the responsibility of ensuring safe and profitable development of aviation!