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IMPOSITION OF VACCINE PASSPORTS FOR AIR TRAVEL NOT IN AFRICA’S INTEREST, AFRICAN MINISTERS OF AVIATION TELL ICAO, SAY THE PROPOSAL IS AGAINST CHICAGO CONVENTION

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African Ministers of Aviation have described the much-touted proposal to impose vaccine passports for air travelers as unacceptable as it is tantamount to discrimination against certain groups of population, especially on the African Continent which still has considerable number of its citizens who are yet to receive the vaccines.

They also described the proposal as going against the intent of the Chicago Convention on the need to preserve friendship and understanding, reduce threat to general security and establish international air transport based on equal opportunity, operated soundly and economically.

A statement by Dr James Odaudu,  the Director of Public Affairs,  Ministry of Aviation said the African Ministers Delegation’s position was made known on Wednesday in a presentation to the ongoing International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) High Level Conference on Covid-19,  by Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika.

Rather than imposing vaccine passports, the African delegation recommended that States party to the Convention on international civil aviation should continue to minimize the risks during travel by ensuring compliance with existing multinational treaties, international frameworks, guidelines, and recommendations.

Sirika, on their behalf, also recommended that Human rights, regional/continental/global health security, economic growth, social cohesion, and good international relations, and use of innovation and technology worldwide to harmonize requirements should be promoted, while transmission of critical information across borders related to public health issues such as COVID-19 and coordination among key players should also be considered.

Senator Hadi Sirika
Minister of Aviation, Nigeria

He also stated that African nations frowned at States imposing unilateral measures of global nature related to public health and asked such states to refrain from such practices and instead take measures that would facilitate the reopening and reconnection of the world.

“There is a clear onus on both public and private stakeholders, to take full measure of the dire circumstances now facing the air transport sector, and to ensure sufficient operational sustainability. These actions are critical to make sure that the world is adequately reconnected, as aviation plays a critical role in the global economic recovery and achieve the realization of the goals of both AU Agenda 2063 and UN Agenda 2030 for sustainable development”.

On the general strategies for recovery, Sirika said: “the global distribution of emergency and humanitarian supplies including the vaccines will no doubt depend on an economically viable aviation system. Aviation is also capable of stimulating recovery and growth of global economy by acting as an enabler and multiplier of economic activity”.

“Considering that the global aviation industry operates as an interconnected ecosystem, it is therefore imperative that all the States of the world implement the ICAO Council Aviation Recovery Taskforce (CART) recommendations and guidance, which are based on the latest development of the COVID-19. ICAO, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, is required to bring to maturity in short term a consensual modality for establishment and deployment of a global health passport as well as the specification of infrastructure (soft/hard) and training of professionals”.

“As well captured by the Preamble of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention, 1944), there is an important need to develop international civil aviation to preserve friendship and understanding, reduce threat to general security and establish international air transport based on equal opportunity, operated soundly and economically.

“It is worth noting that the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) Roadmap for Prioritizing use of COVID-19 Vaccines in the Context of Limited Supply, acknowledges that there is still a limited supply of vaccines and puts forward seven key assumptions regarding vaccines. This further strengthens the fact that vaccines are still not widely available to all world regions, particularly Africa”.

“It is also important to note that the African Union-led initiative of Safe Reopening of Borders to Save Lives, Economies and Livelihoods in Africa has conducted detailed work including a call to action that recognizes that the COVID-19 vaccine rollout will be uneven in all its Member States, while conscious of the progress made in science on the same’.

He also disclosed that two continental joint meetings of African ministers responsible for health, ICT and transport have been so far organized, with the second joint meeting rolling out the African campaign Against COVID-19: Saving Lives, Economies and Livelihoods endorsed on 20 August 2020 by the Bureau of the Assembly of the African Union Heads of State and Government with chairpersons of the Regional Economic Communities of the African Union.

The meetings, according to him, charged African countries to work together towards harmonizing travel entry and exit requirements, and to increase mutual recognition and cross-border information exchange for enhanced surveillance.

“It is worthy to also note that at Regional level Nigeria hosted on the 17th of March 2021 Nigeria hosted a virtual High- Level Ministerial meeting on Enhancing Air Transport Connectivity and Growth in West Africa. The event, which was organized with support from International Partners for Aviation Development, Innovation and Sustainability, (iPADIS) ICAO Dakar Regional Office and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was meant to reimagine, revitalize and retool the aviation system in region to meet present and future challenges, within the contest of the impact of COVID-19 pandemic”.

According to Sirika, the outcome of this high-level Ministerial meeting in Nigeria, which also reassessed the role and contribution of civil aviation to the region’s economic growth, social progress, and integration, as well as the overall sustainable development, was the development of a Plan of Action.
He therefore called on ICAO to support the African region in the implementation of this Plan of Action.

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AIB-N, NAF Collaborate for Improved Air Safety

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 Group Capt. B. A . Usman and COMM/CEO, Engr. Akin Olateru, at AIB Head office, Abuja.

Accident Investigation Bureau Nigeria (AIB-N), has reiterated its commitment to maintaining partnership and institutional collaboration with the Nigerian Airforce (NAF).

This is part of its drive to ensure sustainable cooperation with relevant authorities for safer airspace in Nigeria.

The Commissioner AIB, Mr Akin Olateru, who stated this while receiving the newly appointed Abuja Military Airport Commandant, Group Capt. B. A. Usman says the NAF had the Bureau’s full support and cooperation in ensuring air safety in the country.

He disclosed that AIB-N, as a government agency, has a strong relationship with the NAF, which was sealed with a pact between the two government establishments.

“AIB-N cannot do it alone. A strong collaboration must exist among relevant agencies in order to ensure the continuous safety of the Nigerian air space,” the Commissioner said.

While soliciting the Bureau’s support, Group Capt. Usman said, his team were seeking ways to consolidate the existing synergy between the agencies to ensure maximum safety and security within and outside the airport’s environment.

The Commandant further urged the Bureau not to hesitate to call NAF in times of distress, assuring the Bureau of readiness of a rapid response at all times

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DEFINING A NATIONAL SELF INTEREST-LESSONS FROM A BASA AGREEMENT GONE SOUR

By Tunde Adeniji

The DG NCAA Captain Musa Nuhu recently issued a Press release, conveying the decision of the Honourable Minister of Aviation Sen. Sirika Hadi to replace the operating schedule approval for 21 frequencies/week given to Emirates airlines with 1 weekly Frequency. He had relied on the spirit and letter of the Bilateral Services Agreement (BASA) between the two countries in responding to the single slots weekly offered to Air Peace at Sharjah Airport. The DG’s letter ended with his assurance to members of the public that national interests in all Aviation matters will be jealously protected.

The Aviation Policy and Strategic group discussed the fallout from this decision exhaustively, deconstructing the issues involved, even as its erudite members put forward many good suggestions about how to proceed. The engagements have been rich and enlightening and our intention in contributing to this discourse is to focus on the need to define a National Self Interest in a robust policy framework to guide future BASA/external Aviation relations engagements.

This need is justified based on our experience as a Nation which seems to suggest that we may be haunted yet again by the many decision makers who fell into the trap described below by Jon Moen:

“People who are managing a (financial or economic) crisis are not immune from personal motivations…Sometimes the people in charge don’t know at first that their personal motivations and past experiences might not be compatible with what is best for the greater good.”

We view National Self Interest ‘’As the overriding purpose governing the state’s relationship with the outside world, it serves two purposes. It gives policy a general orientation towards the external environment. More importantly, it serves as the controlling criterion of choice in immediate situations. The dominant view of national interest, in other words, dictates the nature of a state’s long-term effort in foreign policy and governs what it does in a short-term context’’.

The concept of Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) is the outcome of the compromise between the Open Skies advocacy of the US and the strong opposition by the UK and European countries, as a protection from their inability to compete with the formidable dominance of the US in post WW2 world. The delegates at the Chicago convention therefore agreed to a regime that allowed every country complete and exclusive sovereignty over its airspace with the provision that permissions were to be negotiated between contracting states on a bilateral basis. There are at least three different models of BASA, with varying levels of liberality, as may be agreed by the parties to it. We may therefore consider is a contract that should be mutually negotiated like any other

Slots on the other hand ‘’is the most emotive subject in civil aviation. It is the approval from an appropriate authority to take off at a particular time at one airport and land at its destination at another time. The difficulty arises in so called coordinated airports i.e., congested airports where there are severe capacity limits at certain times of the day. It subsequently dictates the difference between operating a route or not’’-D.H. Bunker

The Adam Smith model of Self-interest as the motivator of economic activity with competition as regulator to ensure the market runs efficiently without intervention, is situated below:

“It is not from the benevolence (kindness) of the government (of UAE), Its flag carrier (Emirates), or Airport (Sharjah) that we expect access to Air Peace, but from their regard to their own interest.”

It is important to state at the outset that the self-interest we advocate is (in the words of Lauren Hall) consistent with the demands of justice and becomes the germ from which virtuous, fair behaviour grows, to drive the larger economic engine of society.

In clear economic terms slots represents a barrier to entry and airlines awarded slots benefit from an economic rent. A system established to ensure stability has slowly become the property of the airlines. Slots are sold at a remarkable premium or used as a tool to exert unfair competitive pressures. It has been reported that many European countries who oppose the sale of slots, do so on the principle that, a private firm cannot benefit from a public good (Mackay 2008)

The decision to operate slot system or not remain those of the relevant airport and can be considered “its own internal cuisine‘’ just as ‘’A country’s motivation is its own concern, but the righteousness of its actions is the concern of all’’.

Nigeria like other states deliberately follow certain policies in pursuit of their national interest. The current face off with UAE, shows clearly that we have been a bit too eager to give than to receive or at least gave out before we received.

Our BASA is seemingly driven by the needs and ease of other countries. We have offered multiple entry points to countries, even where our own carriers have faced issues with slots for decades. These incongruities have never been convincingly explained to operators and other stakeholders

We have a unique opportunity to review our thinking and position in this area, especially as our slow adoption of Single African Air Transport Market (SSATM) and African Continental Free Trade Areas (AfCFTA) is totally in sharp contrast to our rush to embrace these dominant international brands

Our policies can start by ensuring that the investment by Nigerian carriers is complimented by access to the best of our facilities as no other country will ever offer them same.

A crisis, they say, is a terrible thing to waste, and so we suggest  that the minimum positive outcome from this saga should be a comprehensive policy paper that will spell out in clear terms, how Nigeria will take actions that will reduce to the barest costs and increase to maximum  benefits its engagements to further our National Aviation Interests.

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NiMet warns of Imminent Temperature Across Northern States

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The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) has in its ‘High-temperature outlook’ issued yesterday in Abuja predicted that most parts of the northern region will experience temperatures greater than 35°C and less than 40°C between November 30 and December 1. Pervade

It also stated that northeast – Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe, the eastern part of Jigawa, Northern Adamawa, and Northern Taraba are all expected to have temperatures in the excess of 35°C.

Similarly, Sokoto, the western part of Zamfara, and the Eastern half of Kebbi, in the North East, are all expected to experience temperatures in the excess of 35°C during the forecast period.

In the central part of the country, Niger, Northern part of Kwara, west of FCT, southern Plateau, northeast of Kogi, and northwest of Benue are all expected to experience high temperatures.

In its forecast for December 1, the agency predicted high-temperature greater than 40°C over parts of Niger State.

However, other parts of Niger, FCT, northern Kwara, Kogi, Benue, Nasarawa, and eastern Plateau in the central states are expected to experience temperatures above 35°C.

Similarly, Sokoto, Kebbi, and Zamfara in the northwest as well as northern Jigawa,  southern Yobe, Borno, Gombe, eastern Bauchi, northern Adamawa, and northern  Taraba in the northeast is expected to record temperatures greater than 35°C.

Also, parts of Ogun State in the southwest could experience 35°C.

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