The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, Nnolim Nnaji, says Nigeria needs a strong flag carrier to be able to play a pivotal role in the emerging African Continental Free Trade Agreement.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Nnaji made the assertion while speaking with newsmen on Sunday in Lagos.
NAN also reports that Nigeria and 49 other African countries have endorsed the AfCFTA which aims to redefine trade relations within the African states and beyond.
It also proposes the creation of a single market for goods and services, with free movement of people and investments across the countries within the continent.
The agreement also has a dispute settlement mechanism similar to the one set up by the World Trade Organisation.
The lawmaker noted that it was regrettable that Nigeria had remained passive in the continental aviation market in recent years, despite the huge daily passenger traffic in and out of the country.
He said: “Though floating a fully government-owned airline may not be a better alternative, we will work closely with the executive arm of government to ensure that competent local airlines were supported to assume the status of flag carriers and operate internationally.
“We all know the important role aviation plays in stimulating international trade, so if we must be relevant in the AfCFTA initiative, our aviation must be of global standards in every respect.”
Nnaji, who represents Nkanu-East/Nkanu-West Federal Constituency in Enugu State, said findings had shown that most of the foreign carriers operating in the country had continued to exploit Nigerians with exorbitant fares since the exit of Nigerian Airways.
He added that the National Assembly would try to stem the tide through legislation and other possible means.
He said: “I have also discovered that all the foreign airlines maintain city offices where they sell tickets directly to passengers, as against what obtains globally.
“What they are doing is denying our local travel agents the opportunity of earning legitimate commissions that would have reduced capital flights and provided employment for our people.”
According to him, his committee will soon invite the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority to appear before it to explain the reasons for the anomaly.
He said that the committee would also partner with agencies and the Ministry of Aviation, where necessary, to make the country’s airspace safer, stressing that NCAA must be strengthened to carry out its oversight responsibility without fear or favour.
Nnaji further disclosed that his committee would be engaging the leadership of the sector as soon as the House resumed from its break, to further identify areas that needed to be addressed to reposition the industry for more efficiency and reliability.