With less than four weeks to the swearing-in of a new administration, Nigeria’s Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika on Wednesday again reiterated that indigenous airline, Nigeria Air, would take off on or before 29 May.
The minister restated the government commitment while briefing State House correspondents on the outcome of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Abuja on Wednesday.
“I think three weeks is a lot of time. By the special grace of God it will fly.And don’t forget we didn’t start today. We started this in 2015,” Mr Sirika said.
The minister explained that they drew up the roadmap and got the transaction advisors in 2016.
The nation’s proposed national carrier was unveiled at the Farnborough Air Show in England on 18 July 2018.
The project was suspended two months after it was announced amidst concerns over its relevance and sustainability. The airline was expected to gulp $8.8 million in preliminary cost and $300 million as take-off cost.
The national carrier idea was raised many years after Nigeria’s defunct carrier, Nigeria Airways, collapsed due to corruption and poor management.
Last month, Mr Sirika, hinted that the controversial national carrier will commence operation before the swearing-in of a new administration on 29 May.
“Operation of local and international flights will commence soon. Before the end of this administration, before May 29, we will fly,” Mr Sirika said then, adding that “Negotiation meetings with the Ethiopian Airlines Group Consortium and the Federal Government of Nigeria are ongoing. Next step: Federal Executive Council approval of the Full Business Case.”
While recounting some of the successes achieved so far in his reign at the aviation ministry, the Minister said more than 50 per cent of the airlines in the country today were licensed under the Buhari-led administration.
“One of the airlines, United, that went to court today, we gave him the licence–the Buhari government and he’s never been to the office of the minister. He didn’t even know it. We gave him the licence. The first time I saw him was at the commissioning of Ogun airport,” Mr Sirika said.
“Rano Air, Uza Air, all of them. Even Air Peace, which is the biggest airline, when we came in 2015 how many airlines did they have? The growth and robustness of Air Peace is because we gave them the enabling environment as a Buhari government to do it. So, we didn’t stop anybody from doing it.”
Based on this, the minister emphasised that the Buhari administration will give Nigeria the airline it deserves for the market, for the population, for the centrality and for everything.
Speaking on sustainable plans, Mr Sirika said: “Well, we are committed and luckily it is APC that will be in power again. We are committed to this project. This project is good for the Nigerian economy, for the travelling people.”
“You will all agree with me that unfortunately from the time of Cabo, Okada, Harco, Chanchangi, Albarka, and the rest of them, about 60 of them went down the drain,” he noted.
“But it’s an individual choice. And no one has stopped any airline in Nigeria, Max Air, United, all of them, they will go and bring in competencies but if they want to run it the way they are, it’s their choice and their business, but we will get them to do it and give Nigerians what they deserve,” the minister said.
Mr Sirika assured Nigerians that the indigenous airline will be established and the incumbent government has no choice but to run with it.
“And the reason is 95 per cent is not government owned 95 per cent is owned by entrepreneurs. So the coming of the next government which is APC, won’t throw the investment away because it’s not their government so it will continue,” he added.
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