Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM)

Mr Daniel Omale, an Aircraft Pilot and Aviation Expert, says the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) recently unveiled in Addis Ababa, may wipe out all domestic airlines in Nigeria.

Omale, in an interview with newsmen, on Wednesday, added that if well-funded, domestic carriers could at the same time reap more gains from the project.

23 African countries unveiled the open sky initiative at the African Union (AU) summit, which is largely based on the agreements of the Yamoussoukro Decision of 1999.

It is an initiative that is expected to result in more regular direct flights between African countries rather than trips, which previously involved stopovers in the Middle East or Europe.

He said that in as much as Nigerian government had shown commitment to the open sky project, it would soon realize that revenue generation in the aviation sector would be boosted.

Omale said the government must support some of the sector’s self-funding structures, especially, the Nigerian Airspace management Agency (NAMA) and effectively fund Air Traffic Management (ATM) in the national airspace.

“No one, not even the minister of state aviation, Hadi Sirika, understands the intricacies of this cooperation, but there must be an extension of time to bargain and move the stakeholders in Nigeria along.

“Failure to oblige to this simple request will undermine the value and efforts of those investing in the industry, who are very capable of truncating the single market project.

“Nigeria is in a dilemma; it has ratified the agreement, just not to be viewed as a foolish big brother; and at the same time, it must find a way to convince the angry domestic players of the industry.

“As a complex nation of varying identities, the issue of a single African sky would have been settled domestically before committing itself to an international covenant.

“Sadly, the bureaucrats, who are the decision makers, understand little of the perils of endorsing a negative project that can affect airline operators,’’ he said.

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Omale also argued that domestic interest groups must be carried along while international agreements were negotiated, and even agreed upon.

He said that the Airline Operators of Nigeria’s (AON), through its chairman, Mr Nogie Megisson, had disclosed that the association was not consulted before taking decision to commit to the single sky project.

This, according to him, has already led to massive discontentment among the Nigerian airline operators.

“How, then, can the Federal Government pacify its domestic actors, while ratifying an international treaty?

“Unfortunately, the minister is highly motivated with the agreement because, one of his key agenda has been the establishment of a national carrier, which will perfectly fit into the single sky algorithm.

“The funding for the national carrier should not be the government’s immediate agenda at this crucial time as the nation is bleeding profusely from the hyper-recession scourge.

“A national airline should not be an immediate project of this government, but support for the existing struggling carriers,’’ he said.