By Ignatius Ushie
Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, yesterday in Islamabad, Pakistan met with different government officials in civil aviation, trade and commerce to foster economic and trade relations, and promote commencement of direct flights between Nigeria and Pakistan.
The mission which was facilitated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria in collaboration with the Africa Center for Asia +B Studies made it possible for the Minister to engage with the Acting Secretary of Pakistan’s Ministry of Aviation, President of Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Minister of Commerce of Pakistan.
At the meeting with the Acting Secretary of Aviation of Pakistan, Mr. Hassan Nafir, the Honourable Minister and his host agreed to take concrete steps towards the commencement of direct flights between Nigeria and Pakistan, in order to promote trade and tourism .
They also agreed that the subsisting Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) between Nigeria and Pakistan be revitalized within the shortest possible time.
To actualise the plan, directive was given to officials of both countries present at the meeting to immediately meet to review the BASA and come up with a workable Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that would ensure early commencement of direct flights.
They both expressed the view that the volume of passengers’ traffic should quadruple from the 7300 recorded last year, as it was noted that the two countries have the advantage of population towards making it to happen.
Receiving the Hon. Minister of Aviation and his delegation, the President of Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Ahsan Bakhtawari, expressed delight for the Honourable Minister’s visit as it would provide the latitude to lay a solid foundation for the promotion of trade relations between Nigeria and Pakistan.
He decried the volume of trade between Nigeria and Pakistan, valued at $210M, and stated that efforts should be made towards improving on it, through the promotion of business to business talks, establishment of the Nigeria-Pakistan Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines & Agriculture, and visit of trade delegations from both sides.
The President of the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce was of the view that trade between Nigeria and Pakistan could only be bolstered if there was a direct flight linking Pakistan and Nigeria and urged the Honourable Minister to facilitate it.
Responding, the Minister stated that, no doubt, flight connectivity had a greater role in cementing bilateral and economic relations between friendly nations of the world, and promised to facilitate the process before the end of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, whose government had done so well to promote the development of civil aviation in Nigeria.
At the meeting with Mr. Syed Qamar, the Minister of Commerce of Pakistan, Senator Sirika and his host agreed that efforts should be made to improve on the level of trade between both countries and air link was identified as one of the major catalyst.
The need for both governments to look at the issue of visa restrictions was stressed for the purposes of boosting trade, tourism and commerce.
Specifically, Senator Sirika urged the business leaders of Pakistan to leverage the opportunities abound in all sectors of Nigeria to invest, as Nigeria was the best destination for investment in Africa.
He informed the Pakistani Minister of Commerce that there were avalanches of business opportunities in the Aviation Sector in Nigeria, emphasizing that the four international airports in Nigeria have been designated as Economic Free Trade Zones with all the advantages that goes with such designations.
Speaking at the occasion, the Director, Economic, Bilateral and Trade Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Bolaji Akinremi, urged both countries to set up a Joint Committee for the purpose of reviewing the subsisting Trade Agreements between them.