Nigeria is willing to cancel multiple route designations granted to some foreign airlines operating to the West African country once Nigerian carriers have the required capacity to meet travel demand.

This was the word from new Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development Festus Keyama in a briefing to aviation correspondents in Abuja at the weekend, the Independent reports.

Keyamo emphasised the federal government's commitment to reviewing Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASA) that grant foreign airlines access to various Nigerian airports. However, he also highlighted the government's top priority as ensuring the safety and well-being of travellers. "I have said it, but before I touch those BASAs, don't forget that a part of that benefits the Nigeri­an people and the local airlines. I should be here for all. If I go this way, the airlines will complain, and if I go the other way, people will complain." Keyama stressed the need for a balance and highlighted the importance of supporting Nigerian interests and ensuring that the Nigerian people ultimately benefit from these agreements.

As of October 2021, Nigeria entered about 90 BASAs with other countries. However, according to The Independent, only about 30 are active, and only a few Nigerian carriers, like Air Peace (P4, Lagos) are using their allocated frequencies. Despite the lack of reciprocity from foreign countries and airlines, there has been persistent pressure on the federal government, particularly from state governors, legislators, and industry professionals, to approve more foreign airlines for direct flights into various Nigerian states and airports. This pressure is exerted regardless of the potential negative impact on the country's own carriers and employment opportunities for qualified personnel in the aviation sector.

Meanwhile, Keyama announced the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) would roll out a clear roadmap in the next two weeks to address the repatriation of foreign airlines' ticket sales trapped in Nigeria for more than 18 months. He reiterated the federal government would ensure that all withheld funds were cleared soon. Discussions on the modalities have taken place with the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Speaking at the Aviation Africa 2023 conference in Abuja last week, Keyama said President Bola Tinubu had ordered the CBN to create a platform for quarterly reconciliation meetings with foreign airlines to address the backlog of trapped funds, reported Business Day.

Meanwhile, contradictory statements have been issued by Nigeria and the UAE regarding the Emirate lifting a ban on Nigerian visas and the resumption of services by Emirates (EK, Dubai International) and Etihad Airways (EY, Abu Dhabi International) in exchange for the release of UAE airlines' funds. This followed a meeting between Tinubu and Emirati President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan last week.