International carriers operating into Nigeria are expected to repatriate over N200 billion to their home countries in 2013, about 12 per cent increase from that of last which was put at N176 billon. This is a conservative projection because industry operators, especially travel agents believe Nigeria does not capture all the tickets these foreign airlines sell.
While it could capture tickets sold through Billings Settlement Plan (BSP), the tickets sold by travel agents that are members of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), it does not have accurate figures of the tickets sold directly by the airlines. Although the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is expected to capture these figures but industry observers believe that except there are other ways the apex bank gathers its data without going through the airlines, the accurate amount remitted may still be elusive. According to NANTA, in 2011, sales report from travel agents through BSP was $913, 137, 418. 09, amounting to about N145, 645, 418, 185. 40.
Also in 2012, travel agents BSP totalled $1, 039, 912, 912. 77; translating to about N165, 866, 109, 586. 80. Travel expert, Ikechi Uko, believed there had been increase in capacity this year as more foreign airlines had started operating into the country and records indicated that more Nigerians had so far travelled this year, compared to the same period last year. It is also estimated that Nigerians that travel to international destinations would increase from over six million last year to seven million by December this year.
Industry consultant and CEO of Belujane Konsult, Chris Aligbe, told THISDAY recently that more than 95 per cent of Nigerians who travelled to international destinations used foreign carriers and the only way Nigeria could stem the capital flight by these international airlines was for government to float a national carrier, which would also operate international routes. Aligbe said it was because of what Nigeria lost to these foreign airlines that it became pertinent, in spite of the criticisms, to establish two or more flag carriers that would compete effectively with these mega operators.
"Those that are opposed to it (establishment of national carrier) should go and check transfers for capital flights from the airline subsector at the Central Bank of Nigeria. You will see how it has increased astronomically. The figures are horrendous and you can imagine how it will be in the next couple of years if the economic efforts of the present administration come to fruition. Improved economy will give rise to more travel from within and outside the country."
There are also fears that if these foreign carriers continue to dominate air operation in Nigeria, the country may not be able to develop the technical manpower needed to grow the aviation industry and would remain dependent on foreign operators which will not be good for the nation's economy.
Presently Nigeria lacks the needed manpower in aeronautical engineering, pilot and others because after the demise of Nigeria Airways Limited, there had not been any concerted effort to train Nigerians in these areas.