Chairman/CEO of Air Peace Airlines, Allen Onyema, has lamented the bad treatment of Nigerian Airlines by foreign countries in contravention of the bilateral Air Services Agreement.
Onyeama made the allegations during an interactive session with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, at the National Assembly, Abuja.
He said the Nigerian government was not deliberately denying foreign airlines of their funds as was being insinuated in some quarters, but that the foreign countries were the ones allegedly fleecing Nigerians by hiking the price of airfares and blaming it on their trapped funds in Nigeria.
According to him, “Nigeria did not seize these funds because what is being pushed out there is that the Nigerian government seized the funds.
“I want everyone here to understand that the Nigerian indigenous airlines are not against foreign airlines repatriating their money, but we feel so sad that some Nigerians and and international airlines are using certain narratives that tend to belittle our government and people.
“The Central Bank has asked them to use the I and E (Investors and Exporters) window, the market trading segment for investors, exporters and end users that allows for foreign exchange trade to be made at the market-determined exchange rate.
“So are they seizing our money? No, because if the government had the money, the airlines would be paid.
“You knew quite well that your funds would be trapped in Nigeria, yet you are increasing your frequency every day to the detriment of local airlines.
Allow the Nigerians to also access your country, and contribute to their nation.”
He also said that Nigerians were the ones allowing stigmatisation against their country by foreign nations because they did not have the full knowledge of how the aviation sector worked.
He said, `So let us not allow stigmatisation to continue in this country. We know the idea is to snuff the life out of the indigenous carriers, and when they pack up, they continue to do what they do best, that is, making Nigerians pay through their noses.
“And Nigerians don’t see some of these things, it is hurtful, so what we are saying is; we support the foreign airlines getting their money, this is business.
“However, the country is not going to cut its head to pay them, we do not have the money, it’s not like the government does not want to pay them.
They too should reduce their frequencies. You are paying N2.3 million to go to London on a six hours flight? That is indefensible,’’ Onyeama maintained.
He said that all stakeholders should be thinking of the solution to the problem instead of throwing wild allegations at the Nigerian government.
“What we should be thinking about is solutions to these issues so they will stop blackmailing Nigeria.’’
Onyeama, therefore, urged the International and local aviation regulators to wade into the matter in order to tackle some of these issues.
He also advised foreign airlines to reduce their frequencies in the Nigerian air space and give indigenous airlines the chance to thrive.