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The Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Mr. Festus Keyamo has said that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has opened an investigation into the controversial Nigeria Air project.
This is coming as the Minister threatened to name and shame airlines that are fond of incessant flight delays and cancellations, saying that the publication of their names would commence next week as a way of stemming the menace that has taken the joy out of air travel.
The Minister while speaking on a television programme monitored by Aviation Metric Wednesday night said the deal appears not to be transparent and one that gives great advantage to Ethiopian Airlines to masquerade as setting up a national airline for the country.
According to him, ‘It was not a deal that was good for Nigeria. It was a good concept to have a national carrier but it was not a good deal for Nigeria. The EFCC is investigating the deal to know whether Nigerians were shortchanged. I don’t want to preempt their investigation. The whole composition and the totality of that deal was merely Ethiopian Airlines flying Nigeria Air. It was a foreign airline trying to fly the Nigerian flag.”
Keyamo however disclosed that Nigeria would set up a national airline, stressing that no local airline will be designated as a flag carrier airline; one that may have put pay to the country’s domestic carriers, particularly, Air Peace and others jostling to be designated as Nigeria’s designated flag carriers.
There are indications that a new national carrier may emerge that will be different from Nigeria Air promoted by a former Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika with totally a different name or with the same name but a different structure.
Nigeria Air project had attracted so much controversy with some claiming that the deal was not transparent but the former Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Senator Hadi Sirika had defended the project as one of the best deals for the country.
The airlines had equally kicked against the project saying apart from the fact that they were excluded from the deal, they opined that a situation where Ethiopian Airlines had a majority stake was dangerous to their operations and the country’s aviation sector.
Keyamo equally disclosed that his Ministry had sought N40 billion in intervention funds to upgrade some of the navigational equipment which calls for urgent attention noting that is being processed by the Ministry of Finance.
Our correspondent recently reported that the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) had admitted that many of its navigational aids had become obsolete but would start the modernisation of the most critical of them all, communication in the airspace.
The agency has been grappling with the Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria (TRACON), which became inefficient over the years because some of its parts had become outmoded.
The Minister equally stated that NAMA in conjunction with his Ministry is embarking on safe tower project in five major airports of Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Enugu, and Port-Harcourt, hinting that after that it would be extended to 12 other aerodromes.
“NAMA equipment is ready in Norway. On the master plan for the airport, it is unbelievable. How can you build infrastructure in the world without a plan? I didn’t meet any master plan on the ground for all the five international airports”.
Keyamo defended the relocation of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to Lagos, saying that the decision was taken in the interest of the country and to cut down drastically costs of flights for top officials of the agency who travel frequently from Lagos to Abuja to hold meetings that can be done in one place.
‘The relocation of FAAN to Lagos from Abuja is a storm in a teacup. There is so much happening beyond movement. The directors lacked offices and accommodation. The new management of FAAN approached me on that because they have to travel every day for things as little as holding meetings and signing one document.”
‘In one year, they spent N500 million on air tickets alone and I screamed and said, what is all this?
Keyamo confirmed that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had cleared the backlog of foreign airlines trapped, urging the carriers to go to their various banks to get $600 million of their money still with their banks.