Nigerian parliamentarians have expressed their support for the government’s ultimatum to foreign airlines to end the discriminatory fares they charge on the Nigerian route or quit.
Aviation Minister Stella Oduah issued the 30-day ultimatum last week, triggering an angry reaction from the British Government which has vowed to retaliate in kind if Nigeria bans British airlines (British Airways and Virgin Atlantic) flying the route.
On Monday, the lower House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, which is holding a hearing on the issue, directed the foreign airlines to slash their fares on the lucrative Lagos-London route or shut their operations in Nigeria.
“Our people are suffering and they are complaining. Reduce your fares or quit; it is either you tell us that you will reduce them or you quit,” Chairman of the House committee, Mrs. Nkiruka Onyejeocha, told British Airway’s (BA) Country General Manager, Mr. Kola Olayinka,
at the hearing.
The committee had summoned foreign airline operators to address the issue of high fares charged and the alleged maltreatment of Nigerian passengers.
It said Nigerians could no longer bear the high fares charged by international airlines operating in the country, particularly BA, which is said to be the most patronized.
According to the committee, the difference between fares Nigerians are made to pay on the Lagos-London-Lagos route and what Ghanaians pay on the Accra-London-Accra route is US$4,239 for first class, US$1,055 on business class and US$92 on premium economy.
At the session, Mr. Olayinka was non-committal on whether or not BA will reduce its fares.
He told the committee that any possibility of fare reduction depended on the outcome of the inter-governmental discussions going on between the Nigerian Ministry of Aviation and the British Department of Transport.
“This meeting is already going on and will hopefully be concluded in June. The two countries are talking; it may lead to a review of fares,” the local media Tuesday quoted him as saying.
Meanwhile, the umbrella organization for Nigerian lawyers – the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) – has also thrown its weight behind the ultimatum issued to the foreign airlines.
“The disparity is very obvious and unjustifiable. These foreign airlines think they have friends in high places and can therefore afford to do as they like, but we are here to assure you of our full support. Now the ultimatum has been issued and we know that violations come with remedies; they should not think we are without remedies,” NBA’s National President Joseph Daudu said.