By Naomi Douglas
Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, said the new national carrier, Nigeria Air, will begin operations before May 29, 2023.
The minister stated this at the 10th Aviation Stakeholders Forum in Abuja.
Sirika, who said the operation of the new airline has been hindered by the court cases, also revealed that all the Nigerian owned airlines were invited to invest in the Nigeria Air but they declined because they did not believe in the project.
Contribution of $1.7 billion to the National economy. However, with the successful implementation of the roadmap projects,
our overall goal is to grow the Aviation sectors contribution from the
current 0.6% to 5% approximately $14.166 billion.
He explained that Ethiopian Airlines came with a better proposal and were chosen as the preferred bidder because of the expertise it has shown and survived for a long time now.
The minister said, “Negotiation meeting with the Ethiopian Airlines Group Consortium and the Federal Government of Nigeria is ongoing.
“Next step: Federal Executive Council approval of the Full Business Case.
“Operation of local and international flights will commence soon. Before the end of this administration, before May 29, we will fly.”
Sirika also said the benefits Nigeria stands to derive from the establishment of the national carrier include reduced capital flight from Nigeria, gain the optimal benefit of BASA and SAATM and development of an aviation hub.
He also said the national carrier will contribute to the nation’s GDP; facilitate hospitality and tourism; facilitate growth and development of the Nigerian Agricultural Sector and create jobs around the Agro-Cargo Terminals.
On the trapped funds of foreign airlines, the Minister said the federal government has put up measures to ensure that the money doesn’t pile up again.
He said the ministry was handicapped as it has limited power as to what it can do on the funds because the Central Bank of Nigeria CBN controls and handles foreign exchange matter.
Recall that recently, the International Air Transport Association IATA said the trapped funds belonging to foreign airlines operating in Nigeria have reached $743,721,097 from $662m in January 2023.
According to a letter addressed to the Minister of Aviation and signed by the area manager, West and Central Africa, IATA, Dr Samson Fatokun, the global airline community sought an intervention from the Minister for the resolution of issue of airlines’ blocked funds in Nigeria.