According to reports, the governors from Nigeria’s 36 states have called for the re-negotiation of existing air carrier agreements for the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
Last year, two Nigerian airlines – Medview and Max air – and a Saudi Arabia designated airline, Fly Nas, ferried Nigerian pilgrims to the holy land.
The involvement of Fly Nas generated heated debate with many in the industry questioning the motive behind the selection of a foreign airline to the detriment of Nigerian ones.
However, the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, NAHCON, explained that it had little to do with the involvement of the airline because it followed a Saudi Royal decree which requires all countries participating in Hajj to allocate certain percentage to its (Saudi) airline.
Following the outcry, the governors under the auspices of Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, invited the chairman of NAHCON, Abdullahi Mohammed, to brief them at a meeting which held on Wednesday evening at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
A communique issued after the meeting and signed by NGF chairman, Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State, stated that the NAHCON boss briefed the forum on the challenges and prospects of the Hajj pilgrimage.
“Members pledged to collaborate with the Commission and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure that existing agreements of air carriers are renegotiated with the involvement of states as key stakeholders,” the communique stated.
Based on the existing Bilateral Air Service Agreement, BASA, signed in February 2015, which provided for a gradual compliance of Nigeria with the Saudi decree; Nigeria would yield 25 per cent of its pilgrims under government quota in 2015, 35 per cent in 2016, 45 per cent in 2017 and ultimately 50 per cent from 2018.
The agreement was signed after a meeting involving Nigeria’s Ministry of Aviation, the NCAA, NAHCON, airlines, Saudi General Authority on Civil Aviation, GACA, and Saudi Ministry of Hajj. The meeting was held in Jeddah.
The governors also received briefing from the World Bank Country Director, Rachid Ben Messaoud, on the progress of the implementation of the Bank’s portfolio partnerships with states.
The governors consequently resolved to “…strengthen coordination mechanism and consensus on replicating and exchanging reviews across the States, to resolve implementation challenges and achieve project development objectives.”
On the status of the prohibition of rice importation through Nigeria’s land borders, the NGF received updates from the Acting Deputy Comptroller-General of Customs, Dangaladima Alhaji, who represented the Comptroller General, Hameed Ali.
The communique said members commended the Customs for the renewed effort in strengthening anti-smuggling activities and pledged to collaborate with it to ensure that the country achieves its target of self-sufficiency in rice production by 2018.