Nigeria’s lead lawyer, Sylvester Elema, has urged domestic air operators to take advantage of the bilateral air services agreement [BASA] concluded between Nigeria and various countries, especially in light of the recently enacted Civil Aviation Act 2022.
Elema, who made the call during a recent interview with PUNCH, noted that the country continued to witness shortcomings and the rise and fall of notable national airlines, which, although they should have expanded their operations, are grossly underperforming or have gone bankrupt.
The scholar Silk further noted that the situation is no different in the international arena as the country does not yet have any airlines registered in Nigeria that take advantage of the reciprocity provisions of the bilateral air services agreement signed. between Nigeria and various countries. Hence, the country operates a one-way airflow in which foreign airlines come to Nigeria, but the country does not have Nigerian airlines that can fly to these countries on a reciprocal basis.
Speaking on the sidelines of the steps taken by the Federal Government to make Ethiopian Airlines a major investor in Nigeria Air and the challenges plaguing the sector, the Chief Counsel noted that the arrangement between the Federal Government and Ethiopian Airlines will depend largely from the legal structure of their arrangement; pointing out that “if Nigeria holds majority shares, it (Nigerian Airways) can still be considered a Nigerian carrier and therefore can be eligible to enjoy BASA between Nigeria and various countries”.
“Issues facing the aviation sector in Nigeria include a lack of capacity on the part of airline operators and the lack of technical capacity to service aircraft in Nigeria. The amount of foreign exchange that airlines spend on maintenance of their planes overseas is mind-boggling.
However, he noted that, contrary to speculation that some foreign airlines have introduced flight restrictions and are now selling tickets in dollars, “foreign airlines are still not allowed to sell their tickets in dollars. They sell in Naira. They are also not allowed to use the standalone exchange rate to charge their fares in naira. This is why they insist that they be allowed to repatriate their funds based on the same exchange rate they use to calculate their tariffs and the CBN is unable to provide the funds as and when. needs. It is therefore not true that foreign airlines sell their tickets in dollars without the approval of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority.
The learned senior lawyer further used the interview to urge lawyers to explore the aviation sector, as opportunities requiring legal services exist in the sector, including leasing disputes (with or without crew ) of aircraft, as well as the performance of certain obligations in the contract, which sometimes lead to the repossession of the aircraft by the aircraft owners, etc. Other opportunities may exist: disputes involving airlines and passengers through accidents, baggage delivery delays, lost baggage, delayed flights, etc.
Further, “aviation workers have employment contracts with the particular parastatals that employed them. Each worker can only claim compensation against his employer but not against the aviation authorities as a whole because of what we call the “contractual bond” in legal language. »
Mr. Eleme further noted that airline passengers have several rights protected and enforceable under civil aviation law and international protocols, including financial compensation for flight delays, delays in delivery of baggage, loss of baggage or accidents on board the aircraft. which could result in bodily injury or death.
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