The Federal Government has added more designations to international carriers operating into the country.
This was disclosed at the inaugural flights of Uganda Airlines into the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos on Thursday night.
The Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Mr. Festus Keyamo revealed that the Federal Government has approved the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja and Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA), Kano to the routes of the airline in Nigeria, giving Uganda airlines access to additional two entries in the country.
Keyamo who was represented at the occasion by the Director, Transport Management, Ministry of Aviation and Aerospace Management, Mr. Hassan Ejibunu, said that the approval of the additional entry ports to Uganda Airlines was in agreement with the spirit of Single Africa Air Transport Market (SAATM) and the Yamoussoukro Declaration (YD).
Mr. Ejibundu said the approval would make the Nigeria-Uganda route more open, accessible for passengers to and from Eastern and Western Africa and beyond.
He challenged the indigenous airline operators to seize the opportunity offered by SAATM and YD to start operating regional and continental flights, stressing that this would also lead to the full implementation of the African Union Agenda 2063.
“The journey started on October 9, 2002 in Kampala, Uganda when the two respective ministers of both countries responsible for Civil Aviation initialled an Air Services Agreement (ASA) with the ultimate desire of bringing about a direct flight from Entebbe, Uganda to Ikeja, Lagos.
“This was further reviewed in January 2015 with certain provisions. It was a matter of concern that the ASA was never operationalised until today, with Uganda utilising the designated airline from her side to commence the flight operations. Kudos must go to the management of the airline and the government and people of Uganda under the leadership of President Yoweri Museveni for this great feat.” the minister added.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Uganda Airlines, Jenifer Bamuturaki, said the direct non-stop flight would reduce the flying time within Africa, especially between Nigeria and Uganda.
Bamuturaki regretted that in some cases, travellers from the continent connect Africa through Europe, a situation which she said added to the cost of flying.
She said the airline would operate three weekly frequencies from its base in Entebbe; Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays to Nigeria, while the outward flight would be the same day.
“We have closed the gap between East Africa and the West. We will be operating three times weekly in Nigeria” Bamuturaki said.
Uganda’s High Commissioner to Nigeria, Amb. Nelson Ocherger, expressed joy over the inaugural flight of Uganda Airlines to Lagos, saying that the approval by the Nigerian government would open a vista of business opportunities to both nations.
Amb. Ocherger noted that the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) exists on reciprocity, adding that his country was awaiting when Nigerian carriers would commence services to Uganda.
“The importance of air transport underscores the promotion of trade and investment and it gives Africa the opportunity to leverage on all AU agenda. We thank the Nigerian government for the necessary approval needed to do this operation” he said:
Uganda Airlines has started three weekly flights into Nigeria,
Already, as of October 2021, Nigeria’s Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) arrangements with other countries had climbed to 95, with reports claiming that only about 30 of the arrangements are active, while a very few Nigerian carriers like Air Peace are currently taking part in the frequencies.
Despite the absence of reciprocity by Nigeria and its carriers, pressures are still mounted on the Federal Government especially by State Governors, legislators and some professionals in the sector to approve more foreign airlines to fly directly into various states and airports in the country, irrespective of its effect on the nation’s carriers and employment opportunities for qualified personnel.
Most of the foreign airlines operate into multiple designations in Nigeria with plans to further increase their frequencies and presence in the country.
No fewer than 11 foreign carriers, including Qatar Airways, Emirates and Ethiopian Airlines and British Airway are operating additional 70 frequencies to Nigeria weekly with operations to several cities across the country.
Also, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Africa World Airlines; Turkish Airlines and Asky Airlines, among others are among the carriers with multiple operations into Nigeria.