The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) on Thursday said that foreign and domestic airlines operating in the country sold N10.5 billion tickets to their passengers between January and July, 2015.

The Director-General of NCAA, Capt. Usman Muhtar, said this while speaking at the 21st Annual Seminar of the League of Airport and Aviation Correspondents (LAAC) in Lagos.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the theme of the seminar is, "Achieving a Win-Win Aviation Sector in Nigeria".

"From January to July this year, the total amount of tickets sold on the domestic routes was N2,352,011,595, while the international operators sold N8,176,919,415, within the same period.

"The total volume of passengers airlifted from January to July 2015 by domestic operators was 6,061,740 passengers while their foreign counterpart freighted 2,341,748 within similar period.

Muhtar said, "It is instructive to note that this result will have been better but for the transition period and elections which always restrict wide scale travel," said.

The NCAA director-general represented by Capt. Sidi Abdullahi, Director of Operations and Training, NCAA, said there was an incontrovertible evidence that Nigeria's air transport sector had witnessed increasing growth in recent years.

He said, "Several foreign airlines are finding Nigeria an investor’s basket. A total number of 15 countries have so far indicated their preparedness to sign Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) with our country."

According to him, 13 others are on the threshold waiting for renegotiation of their existing BASAs, he said.

Muhtar urged the various aviation agencies to collaborate toward ensuring that Nigeria performs excellently at the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) audit in November.

Also speaking, Mrs Binta Bello, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Aviation, said the theme of the seminar could not be more apt at this time that the sector was undergoing reforms in all its ramifications.

Bello said:"As you are all aware, the Ministry was recently directed by President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately kick-start the process of re-establishing a national carrier for the nation.

"Rather than sit in our offices at the ministry to take decisions on the model of a national carrier the nation should operate, a ministerial committee made up of diverse professionals from both the public and private sectors was set up to advice the government.

"The committee recently submitted its report and the ministry is waiting for direction from the government on the matter," Bello said.

She commended LAAC for giving aviation stakeholders a platform to articulate ideas on how to move the industry forward and assured the league of the ministry's continuous support.

Earlier in his address, Mr Chucks Iwelunmo, Chairman, LAAC, said the aviation industry, like other sectors of the economy, was grappling with a litany of challenges.

Iwelunmo commended the Federal Government for its efforts in trying to give the nation a national carrier.

He, however, advised that the airline when eventually established should not be allowed to nose dive.

"Government must encourage domestic airlines in the country to survive.

Multiple designations for foreign airlines should be discouraged if our domestic airlines must remain in business," he said. (NAN)