What Is The Purpose Of Stashing BASA Fund?
Fri, 24/08/2012 ? 12:44am | CAPT. DANIEL OMALE The Friday Column

In the last one month, cynics in the country, especially, those in the aviation sector, have embarked on criticizing the Minister of Aviation for assessing the stashed accrued revenue earned from Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA).

It is puzzling that money generated from the sector, which is being used for the improvement of our national airports can attract such criticism. My question to every critic is: what is the purpose of stashing the fund in banks, and to whose benefit?

Nigeria`s airports have been in sorrow states for nearly forty years, and, today, even a blind man can feel the vigorous improvement in virtually all the airports in the country. In addition to the various physical structures of the terminal buildings, decayed communications, surveillance and navigational equipment are being replaced.

Airfield lighting systems in Abuja, Lagos and Enugu airports have been renovated and improved. Nnamdi Azikiwe airport, Abuja, for the first time, since construction, has absolute redundancy electric power support in case NEPA or PHCN power supply fails.

The new redundancy power back up system was installed a few weeks ago. The minister of aviation, Princess Stella Odua, deserves every commendation for the effort to revive the ailing aviation infrastructure in the country.

What I cannot understand and, still find it hard to digest is: why Nigerians criticize those who positively aim to impact our lives and steer the country in the right direction. Is it better to stash the BASA fund in banks to increase the bank balances or to plough back the same fund to improve the system that generated it? For the purpose of those who do not understand what BASA stands for, and how the money is created, below is the explanation:

To achieve sovereignty, a state must be recognized as having both de facto and de jure control over all the land, sea, and air space within defined territorial boundaries. Once a state comes into being, the concept of trespass applies to any part of the state entered without permission.

Hence, whether it is an individual wishing to cross a land border, a ship aiming to enter or pass through territorial waters, or an aircraft seeking to overfly, prior consent is required. Those who do not seek permission will, at the very least, be liable to arrest and prosecution by the offended state. At worst, entry may be considered an act of war. For example, in 1983 Korean Air Flight 007 strayed into Soviet air space and was shot down.

Since World War II, most states have invested national pride in the creation and defense of airlines (sometimes called flag carriers or legacy airlines). Air transportation differs from many other forms of commerce, not only because it has a major international component, but also because many of these airlines were wholly or partly government owned. Thus, as international competition grew, various degrees of protectionism were imposed.

A bilateral air transport agreement is a contract to liberalize aviation services, usually commercial civil aviation, between two contracting states. A bilateral air services agreement allows the airlines of both states to launch commercial flights that cover the transport of passengers and cargoes of both countries. A bilateral agreement may sometimes include the transport of military personnel of the contracting states.

In a bilateral agreement, the contracting states may allow the airlines of the contracting parties to bring passengers and cargoes to a third country or pick up passengers and cargoes from the host country to the home country of the airline or to a third country in which the contracting states has existing open skies agreement.

Unfortunately, Nigeria does not have many viable flag carriers to fly to the various countries we signed these agreements with.

Therefore, for flying into our country, or over fly our national airspace, the nation is compensated financially. These meager fees have accumulated over the years in designated accounts with various banks in the country.

Rationally, the only way to ensure continuity of the inflow of such fees is to improve the aviation infrastructure in the country, hence the utilization of the same BASA fund.

For the first time in years, Murtala Mohammed airport (international wing), Lagos, has face lift.? The external view of the terminal building has improved tremendously. The floor of the airport has been replaced with marble, with serviceable air conditioners, and steady electrical power supply. This is a far cry from the situation of the airport less than two years ago.

To improve the aviation sector of our economy to the required level of security, safety and comfort demanded of Nigeria, over $10 billion must be exhausted.

Each day of the year, nearly 3000 Nigerians travel through the nation`s airports to and from various destinations outside the country. We feel betrayed by our leaders when the haggard services at our airports splash shame on us. We compare and contrast what we see abroad with our decayed national heritage and the negative air we breathe within our airports.

Again, for the first time in nearly 40 years, our airports are being improved upon, yet some people find it hard to accept the reality of the conscious efforts of the current minister. This is completely absurd and unwarranted negative publicity.

The only way to entice investors into the aviation sector of our economy is for us to show the world that the nation is sincere in the quest to move forward.

Citibank, the Federal Airport Aviation (FAA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) have endorsed the Ministry of Aviation?s proposed Aerotroploils project, pledging to be involved in the various phases of its implementation.

This, according to statement, stemmed from a presentation on the project by the Ministry?s delegation on the Investors? Roadshow to the United States led by the Minister, Princess Stella Adaeze Oduah.

It is expensive to transform the sector and more expensive to sustain the infrastructures, but we must begin the transformation now. This is exactly what Princess Odua has commenced. We must encourage her to sustain the pace.

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