National Carrier: FG orders 20 new aircraft, 9 delivered – Aviation Minister


… says carrier will take off December 2022

By Aaron Ossai

Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika has said that the federal government has ordered 20 aircraft for the national carrier fleet and that none of the aircraft have been delivered.

Sirika who disclosed this at a meeting with the Speaker of the House of Representatives assured that the national carrier, Nigerian Air, will kick off before the end of December this year.

The Minister met with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila at the instance of the House Committee on Aviation which had inquired of the status of the national carrier.

At the meeting held at the National Assembly Complex, Gbajabiamila had expressed concern over the project saying that some issues needed clarification.

“The issue of the national carrier is very important. It is something we are all paying attention to. We just want to make sure we get it right. There have been some misgivings. Some issues have been raised. But there are issues that need clarification”, he said.

Sirika however said that President Muhammadu Buhari at the just concluded ministers’ retreat gave a marching order to ensure that the goal was achieved.

“When I came in as minister, we didn’t arrogate to ourselves knowledge and wisdom. We believe in the stakeholders on whose behalf we are servicing. Having been made minister, I came out with a road map to which in my little wisdom will help transform civil aviation in Nigeria.

“I ran it through the system within the ministry and we commissioned some consultants to conduct market survey and see where we are as an industry at that time. We set out to concession our airports not to privatize but to concession the airports.

“We also set out to put a proper airline the size, capacity, dynamics and the population and the markets and the complexity of the nation, Nigeria and also set out a leasing company and develop the cargo terminals and so on.

“When I came to the House of Representatives I found out that the act that was signed by Jaja Nwachukwu in 1963 was the act that we were using charging pounds and shillings in 2003. We hurriedly, as we were departing in 2007, got the civil aviation passed in 2006 with some imperfections.

There were some important. roadmaps and to God be the glory that today we have done what we thought is good as an act. So, all these roadmap items are private sector led and driven. It’s intended to do the framework and the foundation and steer it in such a way that it will be beneficial to the people and make it private sector initiative to which the government has some interests, understanding the civil aviation in value addition, improving the GDP and jobs.

“The national carrier is in the works and we have advanced significantly and just yesterday, Mr. President in concluding the retreat has directed that this airline must work between now and December. And it will work by God’s grace.

“We have ordered for 20 brand new training aircraft that uses petrol. So far nine has been delivered. All these in the national carrier efforts”, he stated.

“Why should there be a national carrier? We do believe for the reasons I said in this address, we need to have one. And it’s not as what people think about an ego or to own something and say it belongs to Nigeria, no. It is to structure it in such a way that it will come to stay. We are not going to end up with another Kabo or Okada, Chanchangi etc. We also have given every single Nigerian the opportunity especially those in the sector to participate in this airline so that we create an airline that is proper, well set up and stand the test of time and dynamics.

“We have so far from all the submissions identified the partners, the investors and we are currently negotiating and processing the AOC. We are twerking the business case in such a way it will give us advantage and set in in most efficient manner. So, I want to commit here by the grace of God, between now and the end of the year, the airline will work.”

Sirika also said that the cargo terminal of Abuja international airport will be ready in five days.

“Most of the items, I am happy to say that they have either been concluded or about to the concluded. Example, the cargo terminal in Abuja will be finished six days from today and the ones in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano, Enugu are in various stages of completion. They will also be completed before we leave office by God’s grace. Some are coming up like the one in Ekiti, Jos, Katsina. The contracts have been awarded and we will put them in place before we leave and all of these facilities will be in the hands of private sector. We won’t sell them because we are social democrats. We believe that the assets belong to the people and the country but give it to the private sector to make a better use and earn more for the government. This is very different from the sale of assets.

In his remarks, the Chairman of the House Committee on Aviation, Hon. Nnodim Nnaji expressed concern over allowing another country’s airline to own a major stake in the country’s national carrier, saying it may be counter productive.