The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has again bemoaned activities of unregistered travel agencies in the country, exposing the industry to fakery.
The apex regulatory body, which is statutorily mandated to accredit travel agencies, said only 157 agencies have registered to date, with over 5000 others operating illegally.
Director of Air Transport Regulation NCAA, Group Capt. Edem Oyo-Ita (rtd), noted that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulation Act (2006) mandated travel agencies to register with NCAA and the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), but the level of compliance is low, due to poor enforcement and external factors.
Oyo-Ita, at the quarterly breakfast meeting of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI) in Lagos recently, observed that the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) freely welcome all-comers into the air travel business, and a basis for operators not to recognise the appropriate authorities.
"Today, there are over 6000 agencies doing business with IATA and 2000 with NANTA, yet only 157 of them are in NCAA's records. It means IATA is violating our rules and even NANTA has not done too well to enhance sanity in the system. Unfortunately, we cannot regulate those that are not registered with us," Oyo-Ita said.
The director added that all agencies, including the NCAA must take responsibility for the lapses, and take same as a wakeup call to protect the industry.
President of NANTA, Bernard Bankole, who was the guest speaker at the forum, said many were the challenges facing the downstream sector of aviation, and among them are the perennial negligence of their importance and infiltration by all Tom, Dick, and Harry.
Bankole did not spare the NCAA, saying the body had been too focused on the airlines, and left the travel agencies to their own rules.
"It is now so bad that every organisation in Nigeria has a self created agency that is not NANTA recognised. There are ministers, senators, House of Representatives members that have created travel agencies for themselves. That is how far down we have gone. But NCAA has forgotten that it is the policeman of the industry, and has the responsibility to keep it safe," Bankole said.
Recall that NANTA, in collaboration with NCAA, in June launched a new Identification (ID) card scheme - the Nigeria Travel Practitioners Identification Card (NTPIC) - to protect the travel industry, guarantee public transaction safety and boost transparency.
Bankole said only about 20 per cent of travel agencies have aligned thus far. He said NANTA would be tireless in the quest to earn the travel agencies their rightful place in the economy.
The president, at a NANTA world press conference to herald the 43 Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the association Tuesday, said the focus of the meeting was to further draw the attention of government to travel and tourism as potential mainstay of the non-oil economy.
He said it was high time the next level agenda of the Federal Government had created a roadmap for development of travel and tourism, like most self-sufficient economies of the world.
Financial Secretary of NANTA, Daisi Olotu, added that the way to go is for Nigeria to invoke the local content law to regulate activities of the travel agencies.
Olotu observed that it is more convenient for foreigners to issue Nigerian tickets overseas, and quite cheaper for local travellers to patronise them too.
"Because over there, they pay no tax to Nigeria nor do they have to issue tickets through a bank or agencies like local operators are doing. Now, we have more Lagos-London flight tickets being issued from overseas than our agencies in Nigeria are doing. That is capital flight and money lost for our economy. The earlier our government starts insisting on local content in the processes, the better for us all," he said.
The NANTA AGM, with the theme: "Developing strategic policy for the sustainability and growth of the travel and tourism industry," holds in Lagos on March 27.
Among those expected are the Minister of State for Aviation, Capt. Hadi Sirika; his counterpart in Ministry of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed; Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi; Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Director General of NCAA, Capt. Muktar Usman, who is also the keynote speaker; Director General of NCAC, Otunba Segun Rusewe and Director General NTDC, Folorunso Coker.
First Deputy President of the association, Susan Aporaiye, said the meeting would begin with an awareness walk on March 26 from Alausa Secretariat to Ikeja and back to Lagos State House or Assembly.
Aporaiye said: "This AGM is apt because we just finished our elections and like the president said, the government is taking Nigeria and the economy to the next level.
"As an association, we are trying to position ourselves to truly be part of the next level.
The truth is that tourism is more of a private sector thing, but it has a lot of government backing in the place of policies," Aporaiye said.