NIGERIA remains committed to the principle of establishing a national carrier despite the failure of Nigeria Air to get off the ground as the government still signs up to the African Union vision of creating a single continental aviation market by 2063.
In July last year at the Farnborough Air Show in Kent, in the UK, aviation minister Hadi Sirika, revealed plans to float a new national carrier called Nigeria Air. However, the launch of the carrier was put on hold because the government’s Economic Management Team was not impressed with the arithmetic surrounding the venture and the tight time schedule.
Yesterday, after attending a Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Abuja, Mr Sirika revealed that the government is still committed to the project as at the moment, 80% of the airlines that dominate the African aviation sector are non-African. He added that Nigeria will not convert Arik Air into the national carrier but other options are being considered.
Mr Sirika said: “In view of the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063, the Single African Aviation Market, we thought that there will be an airline that will take up that challenge, that will take advantage of it and be able to provide services to our people. Nigeria, being the first country to kick-start the declaration in 1999, to establish a one common market in Africa, at the time, we wanted to take advantage of the Nigeria Airways which was the strongest airline on the continent and we thought that we could take advantage of that and it would pay Nigeria very well.
As part of the plan, yesterday, the FEC, presided over by vice president Professor Yemi Osinbajo approved N2.97bn for fencing and perimeter road for the Port Harcourt International Airport. It also approved N574.3m for insurance and special risks for the assets in Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, Zaria.
“The second memorandum is for the fencing and perimeter road for the Port Harcourt International Airport. This project was abandoned since 2011 and of course, in response to the philosophy of President Muhammadu Buhari to complete all abandoned projects and ongoing projects, this safety, security-critical item, we felt need to be completed.
“Arik, as presently constituted, is not in line with the thinking of the ministry. It will not be able to give us that airline that we need, however, Arik as an entity is private-sector driven, so one can either buy shares in the new venture or invest in any manner in the business as presently approved,” Mr Sirika added.