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Keeping the BASA account clean
If the allegation of how a director in Nigeria’s Ministry of Aviation single handedly granted a $14 million waiver on Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) to a foreign airline is found to be true, then there is a serious problem somewhere.
There is a problem in the sense that the issue may justify the alarm once raised by a former minister of aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, of how some officials in the ministry often gave out extra frequencies to some foreign airlines at the expense of the country.
The BASA money came from the commercial agreement signed between the defunct Nigeria Airways and airlines from other countries. It was referred to as the royalty such foreign carriers paid to Nigeria Airways on behalf of Nigeria outside the original bilateral agreements they had with Nigeria.
It was an agreement made by foreign carriers to go outside their allotment to request for more flights that led to payment of this royalty to the host carrier, which then happened to be Nigeria Airways in this sense.
Before its demise, it was Nigeria Airways that did the negotiations on the royalty as stipulated by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), clearing house for airlines across the world.
While this $14 million waiver allegation is still being investigated by the National Assembly, the development has further gone to confirm the fears raised by the former minister.
Though Chief Fani-Kayode had promised to expose the officials fond of shortchanging Nigeria through the unjust granting of waivers, he could not fulfil this promise until his tenure expired.
The latest discovery by the Senate Committee on Aviation, led by its chairman, Senator Hope Uzodinma, as it affected the director, has only gone to show that there is problem with the bilateral agreements Nigeria has with other countries.
Obviously, majority of the agreements were signed to the disadvantage of Nigeria, while the foreign countries are left to enjoy the full privileges.
It will also be recalled how Nigeria fully exploited the gains of BASA during the existence of the former national carrier.
As at the time the national carrier was liquidated, Nigeria had over $155 million kept in the BASA account, even though the money was eventually wasted on questionable projects.
Since the demise of Nigeria Airways, few people have chosen to mismanage the BASA fund without recourse to the rules governing how the special fund should be spent.
It is, therefore, based on this that the Crucial Moment is encouraging the National Assembly to urgently look into the allegation of the $14 million waiver and other issues affecting the status of the BASA account.
Just as the Senate Committee on Aviation is planning to promulgate a law that will take the power to negotiate subsequent BASAs on behalf of Nigeria from the Ministry of Aviation, it is also proper to reposition the local airlines such that they can be well equipped to do this in place of the former national carrier.
BASA ought to be an administrative thing and it is only in Nigeria that government directly gets involved in negotiating BASA and this is why it has been abused.
The ability of the present crop of National Assembly members to actually spell out who should negotiate and manage the BASA account will go a long way in clearing the ongoing controversy trailing the account.
Besides this, spelling out all issues regarding the account will help stop mismanagement of the fund and the continuous shortchanging of the country.
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