A group, Aviation Round Table (ART) says Nigeria needs strong carriers to reap the benefits of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).
Its President, Mr Gbenga Olowo made the assertion in Lagos on Friday while reacting to the opposition to the commencement of full implementation of SAATM by Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON).
Newsmen report that the SAATM is expected to be inaugurated this Friday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia by the African Union Commission.
It is a flagship project of the African Union Agenda 2063 to create a single unified air transport market in Africa, to enhance liberalisation of civil aviation to boost the continent’s economic integration agenda.
The Minister of State for Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, had earlier reaffirmed the Federal Government’s commitment to the full implementation of SAATM by 2018 despite opposition from indigenous airlines.
However, Olowo noted that though the argument by the AON that its full implementation would negatively affect Nigeria airlines was valid, the association must address problems confronting the sector.
According to him, Nigeria, its airlines and the economy will remain disadvantaged as long as stakeholders lack the will to evolve strong players in the sector.
He added that the AON must find lasting solutions to the myriads of problems confronting domestic airlines instead of waiting for the government.
Olowo said operators should be innovative enough to evolve synergistic solutions derivable from collaborations, mergers and or acquisitions.
He said they should jettison the present parasitic competition which had only made them small and disunited.
“Africa will not continue to wait for Nigeria when the rest of the world is progressing with open skies and free market economies just because Nigeria airlines and its business environment inhibit evolution of strong carriers.
“The truth is that the international Civil Aviation Organisation and International Air Transport Association are pushing for it , ditto other strong economic partners of Nigeria and it will happen sooner than later.
“We must put our acts together if we also don’t want to continue to lose in Africa with negative balance of trade as it were presently with other markets,” Olowo said .