By Wole Oyebade
-Osinbajo to launch NTPIC June 26
The travel industry, in partnership with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), is set to launch a mode of identification for genuine travel agencies and agents in the air travel sub-sector.
The purpose-built identification card, known as the Nigerian Travel Practitioners Identification Card (NTPIC), is part of the efforts to sanitise the industry by exposing illegal operators and fraudsters waiting to defraud intending passengers. And once the mandatory idenfication cards take effect on June 26, 2018, it becomes illegal for an unlicensed agent to sell tickets or members of the public to patronise such.
The NCAA 2006 Act designates the authority as the apex regulatory body of air travel in the country, including activities of the travel agencies that are the downstream sector of the aviation sector. It will be recalled that the air travel business has lately been faced with one-too-many cases of travel agents defrauding intending passengers and organisations in excess of millions of naira.
President of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), Bankole Bernard, said that the unwholesome episodes were embarrassments to genuine operators and country’s image, forcing the stakeholders to the drawing board to find solution.Bankole, told reporters in Lagos that the identification card measure is to assist intending air travellers to identify genuine travel agents from fake, and to put a stop to the activities of frausters in the sector.
He disclosed that the Vice President will launch the card in Lagos on June 26, as a measure of the Federal Government’s support for the initiative. Bankole said: “We decided to embark on this project as the downstream sector of the aviation industry. More so, the government does not really understand our worth or the total number of the agencies that exist within the country.
“Again, our industry is so porous; there is no exit or entry barrier. So, it has become an all-comers’ business even for fraudsters. Three, we realised that some have now used travel agencies as a means of human trafficking, defrauding intending passengers and as a means of bastarding our name at the embassies,” he said.
The president, therefore, urged intending passengers to patronise genuine travel agencies to avoid being defrauded, adding that passengers at the point of buying their tickets must insist that the operator show identification card to ascertain authenticity.
No fewer than 6000 travel agencies are registered with NANTA, out of which about 1000 have already applied for the NTPIC.Vice president of NANTA, Lagos zone, Lola Adewole, said though fraud may not be completely eradicated in the industry, it can be reduced to the minimum.
Adewole said that the identification has, therefore, being fortified with security features that are not easily penetrable.She said all members of NANTA who are registered, have their Bank Verification Number (BVN) and other details tied to the card, making it difficult for would- be fraudsters to break the code.
She called for support from everyone for the project to succeed. She said: “IATA works closely with us now because they have seen the vision and the leadership of NANTA and they are willing to go all the way with us. It is a product that should be of interest even to you as a citizen of this country.
“We are going to proceed on a mega training of our members after the launch, because it is very critical that we train our members. When we train our members, then they bring professionalism onboard and they can work just the way other travel agencies around the world are working,” Adewole said.