Lagos — Federal Government appears to have succumbed to pressure to drop the big stick it previously wanted to wield on British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airlines for allegedly charging exploitative fares against Nigerians.
"The proposed ban of all airlines that fail to restore fare parity has been put on hold in the interim in deference to the ongoing intervention effort of the Senate and the National Assembly," the ministry of aviation announced in a statement yesterday.
This suggests that Nigerians would have to deal with the discriminatory air fares while travelling to Europe and America as no time frame was fixed for the National Assembly to intervene on the issue.
On March 26, a 30-day ultimatum was issued to all foreign airlines operating in Nigeria to dismantle their fare disparity within the West African Coast or face a ban from operating in the Nigerian airspace. That ultimatum expired yesterday.
The statement said: "Ever since the ultimatum was issued, a lot of developments have occurred. There have been consultations and negotiations between the Nigerian and British authorities with regard to the operations of BA and VAA. Negotiations involving other foreign Carriers have also been on-going.
"But the most significant development since the issue broke out was the intervention of the House of Representatives and the Senate, given the high interest the question of fare imbalance generates across the country.
"Currently, the intervention/investigation of the Senate Committee on Aviation is still on-going. The first phase of that investigation was the Public Hearing where all interested/affected stakeholders made various representations to the Committee.
"While the Hon. Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Adaeze Oduah insists that the regional fare imbalance must be dismantled, with severe consequences for all airlines that fail to comply, it is however imperative to allow the Senate investigation to take its full course.
"As a result, the proposed ban of all airlines that fail to restore fare parity has been put on hold in the interim in deference to the ongoing intervention effort of the Senate and the National Assembly.
"Action in this regard will be determined at the conclusion of the Senate investigation in order not to prejudice the outcome of the Committee Report as well as accord due respect and recognition to the current effort of the institution of the National Assembly at resolving the issues in the best interest of the nation."