The Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah has denied any form of interference in the regulatory activities of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
Fielding questions from journalists in Abuja on the suspension of the operations of Dana Airlines, Ms. Oduah said the ministry only supervises the activities of agencies and parastatals under it as there are shared responsibilities between the ministry and its agencies.
Ms. Oduah, while assuring air travelers that the nation’s airspace remains safe, also denounced claims that the ministry is more interested in revenue generation rather than safety of the nation’s airspace.
This denial is coming ahead of investigations into the Associated Airlines crash which claimed 15 lives in Lagos.
The Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) said it has commenced the readout of data from the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) otherwise referred to as Black Box recovered from the crashed Embraer 120 ER aircraft.
AIB Commissioner Captain Muktar Usman, who disclosed this in a statement, said the analysis of data from the FDR was being carried out at AIB’s laboratory in Abuja.
He also confirmed that one of the seven survivors had died on Saturday without disclosing the identity of the latest casualty in the aircraft accident.
He said, “Flight recorders of the ill-fated aircraft have been recovered and will be downloaded at the Bureau’s newly installed flight laboratory at its Abuja headquarters. The readout of the recorders has commenced. The aircraft, which crashed less than three minutes after take-off from Runway 18L of the airport, had 20 personson board, including seven of the airline’s crew. There were six survivors as at 05 October, 2013.”
He said investigation continues into the crash of Embraer 120 ER aircraft marked 5N-BJY belonging to Associated Aviation Limited, which occurred at the Joint Users Hydrants installation at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Lagos at 9:30hrs (local Time) on Thursday 03 October, 2013.
Associated Aviation Limited is a Nigerian registered domestic airline, which operates chartered and scheduled flights in the country.
President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has declared a three-day period of national mourning for all those who lost their lives in the Dana plane crash in Lagos today.
According to a statement released from the State House, the President cancelled all his public engagements scheduled for tomorrow and has also directed that the Nigerian flag be flown at half-mast for the three days of national mourning.
Meanwhile, the President has ordered the fullest possible investigation into the crash.
In compliance with the President’s directive, the Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Oduah has already left Abuja for Lagos to oversee investigations and present an interim report to the Federal Government as quickly as possible.
The President joins all Nigerians in mourning all those who lost their lives in the plane crash which has sadly plunged the nation into further sorrow on a day when Nigerians were already in grief over the loss of many other innocent lives in the church bombing in Bauchi State.
The President however assured air travellers in the country that every possible effort will be made to ensure that the right lessons are learnt from the tragic loss of valuable lives in today’s plane crash and that further measures will be put in place to boost aviation safety in the country.
He prayed that God should grant the families of the victims of the plane crash the courage and fortitude to bear their irreparable loss.
The House of Representatives on Monday threatened to impose sanctions on foreign airlines (British Airways (BA) and Virgin Atlantic) for flouting aviation laws in their manner of charging exorbitant fares on Nigerian air routes.
The Chairperson, House Committee on Aviation, Nkeiruka Onyejoacha issued the threat at a meeting with international airlines. The lawmaker expressed displeasure with the airlines’ hidden taxes (including $508 fuel surcharge) and discriminatory charges totalling $969.24.
Representatives of Lufthansa, Air France/KLM, Virgin Atlantic and British Airways were present at the meeting with the House of Representative committee on aviation.
Mrs Onyejeocha said that the airlines “must” reduce their fares or face backlash from the legislature. “Nigerians are suffering and you are not treating us well. We are interested in price reduction. If you are not going to do that, tell us and we will impose sanctions; we are not interested in your story of demand and supply,” she said.
She said that although Nigeria is a free market economy, air fares in the country have been the highest within the West Africa sub-region. “Within the last few months, airlines flying international and domestic routes have increased their fares many times, and in most cases, without prior and adequate notice to travellers. We, as a nation, must curb and resist this trend,” she said.
“These arbitrarily fixed airfares are exploitative, particularly as Nigeria’s aviation fuel is one of the cheapest in the market as against what is obtainable in countries such as China, India, Ghana, and United States of America. We have discovered that Nigerians pay higher to travel to places like Europe and America, while other countries attract cheaper fares even when the distance from such countries is farther than Nigeria.
“This exploitation must not be allowed to continue, more importantly as Nigeria is one of the most lucrative routes in the world with a minimum of 1,000 passengers coming in and out every day.”
Speaking at the meeting, the President of Association of Travel Agencies, Aminu Agowa said that travelling tickets worth over $1 billion were raked in last year without corresponding profits to the 600 licensed travel agents. “Hidden taxes constitute 50 per cent of the total charges imposed on travellers, and most of the tickets displayed on the internet by the foreign airlines are not sellable,” he revealed.
The Director General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Harold Demuren, said that airline agencies for indulging in sharp practices. Mr Demuren said that there is a disparity of $4,239.27 in the amount charged on first class flights between Ghana and Nigeria, $1,055.22 on business class/club between Ghana and Nigeria, $92.02 on premium economy between Ghana and Nigeria; while economy class was $233.13 lower than the fare charged in Nigeria.
“We have done the study and we have all the figures; we have the details. We have been on this for the past two years and every Nigerian who has been ripped off must be paid back,” he said. “I want to beg the House of Representatives to take on the travel agents because, technically, they are the ones involved. They will tell you the tickets are not available. It is the normal practice in the business, but it is unfair.
“Specifically, both airlines (British Airways and Virgin Atlantic) colluded to fix the passenger fuel surcharge in a manner that eliminated or suppressed choice and competition, and the Nigerians were the victims of this conduct while both airlines reaped huge profits from their misconduct.
“For these violations, the NCAA imposed monetary penalties and decided that passengers who were exploited must be compensated. With respect to NCAA’s factual allegations and findings that both airlines engaged in deception, collusion (price fixing) and unfair methods of competitions, the panel found out that all the allegations were sufficiently established by overwhelming evidence.”
Read the complete presentation of the DG, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, Here.
British Airways’ country director, Kola Olayinka, declined to comment on the issue saying that he would be breaching the European Anti-Trust Regulation if he responded.
The British government on Monday warned that it would take retaliatory steps against Nigerian airlines, if the federal government bans the British Airways and Virgin Atlantic over fare disparity. The British Airways had earlier said in a statement that all its fares were competitive and on a sound commercial basis.
Nigeria’s Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah, had over the weekend threatened to ban any foreign airline which failed to adjust its fares to reflect equity with their prevailing fares as is obtainable in other West Africa countries. She gave the airlines one month ultimatum to review their fares.
Reacting to the ultimatum on Monday night, Britain said banning private airlines would amount to a “heavy-handed action that would be catastrophic.”
Consequently, Britain said it would not hesitate to retaliate if the federal government goes ahead with the threat to ban the airlines after 30 days. Britain said only business and first class fares were more expensive to Nigerians than neighbouring West Africa countries because of high demand for those seats.
It also said banning BA and Virgin would break a bilateral air services agreement between both countries.
“It (the ban) would cause potential foreign investors to question whether they want to put their money in Nigeria and have a long-term and damaging effect on Nigeria’s growth,” a British High Commission spokesman said.
“The Prime Minister and President Goodluck Jonathan signed a joint communique last year pledging to double bilateral trade. Action against BA and Virgin would damage that strategic aim,” the Spokesman said.
The fare dispute is running parallel to another row between Nigeria and Britain over airport landing slots.
Nigeria’s biggest carrier Arik Air stopped its daily flights between Abuja and London Heathrow on Monday because it was being prevented from getting arrival and departure slots at UK airports.
“It is wrong to suggest that Arik has been prevented from flying into Heathrow. Our understanding is that Arik is just unwilling to pay for the cost of renting or buying landing slots,” the British spokesman said.
He added that it was something all airlines who want new slots into Heathrow needed to do.
Mrs Oduah had argued that it was unfair for BA and Virgin to charge more to fly Nigerian than passengers from neighbouring West African countries. “We are seriously concerned and worried by the reluctance to restore parity within the region by the foreign airlines,” she had said in a statement.
“They have been using all kinds of delay tactics, this is unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated. We will resolve this issue once and for all,” she had added.
Reacting to Mrs Oduah’s threat to ban the airline BA said: “British Airways is fully legally compliant with the requirements of the Air Services Agreement between the UK and Nigeria. We remain committed to Nigeria and continue to serve the country with daily flights to Lagos and Abuja.
“We have been flying there for more than 75 years and pride ourselves on offering competitive fares, a choice of products and connections to our Nigerian customers.
“All of our fares are set on a sound commercial basis and remain fully competitive with other carriers in the region including Arik Air.”
The Federal government has given airlines British Airways (BA) and Virgin Atlantic 30 days to lower fares or face a ban from flying to Nigeria, the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah said on Monday.
Britain responded by saying it could take retaliatory action against Nigerian airlines if a ban was imposed, and that “heavy-handed action” banning private airlines would be “catastrophic” for business confidence in the country.
Mrs Oduah has said it is unfair that BA and Virgin charged more to fly to Nigeria than to neighbouring West African countries.
Its civil aviation authority fined the two airlines last year a combined $235 million for fixing prices. BA, which is owned by International Airlines Group and Virgin, rejected the accusation.
“We are seriously concerned and worried by the reluctance to restore parity within the region by the foreign airlines,” Mrs Oduah said in a statement. “They have been using all kinds of delay tactics, this is unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated… (we will) resolve this issue once and for all.”
Britain said only business and first class fares were more expensive to Nigeria than neighbouring countries because of high demand for those seats. It also said banning BA and Virgin would break a bilateral air services agreement.
“It (the ban) would cause potential foreign investors to question whether they want to put their money in Nigeria and have a long-term and damaging effect on Nigeria’s growth,” the British High Commission spokesman said.
“The prime minister and President (Goodluck) Jonathan signed a joint communique last year pledging to double bilateral trade. Action against BA and Virgin would damage that strategic aim.”
A BA official in Abuja declined to comment.
The fare dispute is running parallel to another row between Nigeria and Britain over airport landing slots.
Nigeria’s biggest carrier Arik Air said this month it would have to stop its daily flights between Abuja and London Heathrow because it was being prevented from getting arrival and departure slots at UK airports.
“It is wrong to suggest that Arik has been prevented from flying into Heathrow. Our understanding is that Arik is just unwilling to pay for the cost of renting or buying landing slots,” the British spokesman said, adding it was something all airlines who want new slots into Heathrow needed to do.