Why Nigeria Air was suspended — Amaechi

Former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi. [PHOTO CREDIT: Official twitter page of Rotimi Amaechi]
Former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi. [PHOTO CREDIT: Official twitter page of Rotimi Amaechi]

The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, on Friday, said the Federal Executive Council was ‘divided’ on the modalities for the establishment of the proposed national carrier, Nigeria Air, hence its inability to take off.

The minister disclosed this in Abuja, during a valedictory press briefing. Mr Amaechi was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari, who will commence his second tenure on May 29.

Mr Amaechi noted that the project of establishing a national carrier had not been abandoned even though the members of the federal cabinet ”have different beliefs as regards the project.”

The Punch newspaper quoted the minister as saying: “On national carrier, (the) cabinet is divided on the issue of modality. There are those who believe that the federal government should invest and then we can sell the equity later.

“There are also those who believe that no, and from day one they say let us get investors in and give them the franchise of Nigeria Airways or Air Nigeria or whatever it is called. That is where we are, and that is what held it down. But as for whether it is still in our plan, it is and has not been abandoned.”

In September 2018, PREMIUM TIMES reported the suspension of the project by Nigeria’s aviation minister, Hadi Sirika.

Although he gave no explanation for the cancellation, it was gathered that the suspension was made because the Economic Management Team (EMT) did not approve of it.

On repaying loans, Mr Amaechi told the permanent secretary of the Federal Ministry of Transportation, who was also at the briefing, to ensure that the Nigerian Railway Corporation opened the required accounts that would help in the repayment process.

He also revealed that the Nigerian government had not paid the loan it got from China for the Abuja-Kaduna railway.

He said, “Permanent Secretary holds him (NRC boss) to that instruction, and the instruction is that all the money you get from Kaduna-Abuja railway every month, put it in an account. Remove the cost of operation. Whatever remains, let us start paying back, let’s develop a sinking fund or an escrow account where we pay that money into.

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“So that we can even on our own start the payment before the federal government starts paying. Why? I say this is because when we got to China, they insisted because of what they experienced with Kenya, Somalia and Sudan on their inabilities to pay back.”

He said the Chinese insisted that Nigeria must open the two accounts.

“They insisted that we must open two types of accounts, an escrow account and a sinking fund account. The sinking fund account will require that every year we will put money there which is for the repayment of the loan, while the money for the management of that operation will be put in the escrow account.

“Let them put that money in the required account. But for now, nothing has been repaid. It is good you asked that question because I gave them that instruction and I’m not sure it’s being implemented up till now.”

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