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Yamoussoukro decision: Why Nigeria must tread softly.

The recent International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) International World Aviation Forum (IWAF) hosted by the Nigeria's federal government in Abuja was not only unique in the sense that it was the first time that the event will be held outside Montreal, Canada, the headquarters of the global aviation body, but also unique because of the revelations that emanated at the gathering.

At the forum, which had as its theme 'Financing the Development of Aviation Infrastructure', various issues and challenges confronting global aviation and how each member state must not be left behind were thoroughly tackled.

Of course, as expected, African nations were not left out as the forum had in attendance representatives of African countries from Nigeria, Ghana, Botswana, Senegal, Guinea,South Africa, Egypt, Kenya among others, and even the representatives of the African Union (AU) and the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC).

There is no doubt that the gathering was of immense benefits to Africa in particular in view of the willingness of ICAO and other developed nations present to assist the continent to come out of the murky waters of its aviation sector through effective and progressive policies.

One of such policies that participants identified to be responsible for the poor performance of African airlines was the non implementation of the Yamoussoukro agreement for open skies amongst the African nations.

The Yamoussoukro agreement was the fallout of an earlier declaration made in 1988 by the African ministers of civil aviation for leaders on the continent to open up their skies to other African nations for the purpose of integrating and improving air transport movement within the continent.

Unfortunately, the various African leaders have continued to work against the implementation of the agreement for the obvious reason of protectionism even after the decision to implement it was endorsed by African heads of governments in 2002 while foreign airlines have continued to dominate air travels on the continent.

The intrigues over the Yamoussoukro decision again reared its head at the ICAO aviation forum in Abuja where speakers including the President of African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwumi Adesina called on African countries to implement the 1999 Yamoussoukro agreement for open skies saying the failure to implement this has continued to be the bane of air transport liberalisation in Africa.

However, from the feelers that emanated from the forum, the Yamoussoukro decision may start yielding fruits from next year as 23 countries from the continent have backed the implementation.

As good as this policy would have been to Africa, sadly, many of the African leaders have failed to see beyond their local parlance as they have misinterpreted the good move as an attempt by bigger sister countries to overrun their aviation sector.

This unprogressive nature which has continued to draw the continent backwards in global aviation development is playing out in the manner many of the African countries waste no time in frustrating efforts of airlines from other parts of the continent to connect the continent through air link.

The affected countries have not hidden their hatred for the Nigerian carriers who have indicated interest in operating into their domain as they come up with backward excuses even while foreign airlines have their ways effortlessly.

From all indications, Nigeria seems to be the most liberal in view of the number of African airlines operating into the different parts of the country competing favourably with the Nigerian airlines.

Obviously, Nigeria has openly declared its support for the full liberalization of air transport on the continent with the number of airlines from sister African countries in Nigeria, a policy which is being taken for granted as witnessed in the manner they treat airlines from Nigeria.

With the ongoing move to implement the decision next year continues, Nigeria should not allow itself to be used as the 'guinea pig' by not rushing to open up all its access to these other African countries who have chosen to protect their own.

Nigeria should not allow itself to be deceived as the 'big brother' while the other smaller countries are protecting their airspace for their airlines while airlines from Nigeria are being frustrated by them.

While Nigeria is ready to support the decision, it should however, allow the other sister countries to declare their sincere willingness towards the implementation of the decision before it can finally do same, otherwise, Nigeria may become the big fool with its indigenous airlines being at the receiving end.
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Publication:Nigerian Tribune (Oyo State, Nigeria)
Geographic Code:6SOUT
Date:Dec 7, 2017
Words:804
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