Foreign airlines operating in Nigeria may escape the penalties imposed by the Ministry of Aviation for discriminatory fares as pressure from the British government and some powerful Nigerians is forcing the Federal Government to have a rethink.
The Ministry had earlier issued a deadline for both the British Airlines and Virgin Atlantic to cut the fares on the Nigerian route failing which they would be forced to pay penalties. The deadline expired last month but the Aviation Ministry has said it would wait for the Senate to conclude its investigations into the issue before any further actions.
The issue of price disparity, which makes Nigerian routes more expensive to London than similar distances to neighbouring countries in Africa, has attracted the attention of the Ministry and the Senate Aviation Committee, both of which are determined to redress the practice.
The Post understands that some well-placed Nigerians who are close to the airlines are already mounting pressure to frustrate the move to penalize the airlines. BA, for instance, has, on its board, two monarchs from the South-West and northern part of Nigeria, respectively.
A source close to The Presidency also disclosed that President Goodluck Jonathan may have ordered the Aviation minister to forget about the penalties because of the business pact between Nigeria and the United Kingdom as well as over fears that any penalty on BA and Virgin will attract a retaliatory action from the British government.
During his visit to Nigeria, the British Prime Minister and the Nigerian President issued a joint communiqué pledging to double bilateral trade between both nations by 2014.
The Post also understands that there is as yet no indication from the airlines that they would review their much-criticised fares.
BA’s Country Manager in Nigeria, Kolawole Olayinka, said the airline does not have any plans for now to review its fares, adding that only the entrance of more airlines would ease the pressure of the pressing demand and ultimately drive down the price on the route.