Ministry to be renamed Aerospace Ministry, Nigeria Air for launch before May 29-Minister

  • Sirika chides carriers’ attitude over trapped funds

 The Federal Government has concluded plans to rename the Ministry of Aviation to the Ministry of Aerospace and Civil Aviation to align with the global trend and reposition it for more efficiency. This was disclosed by the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika.

The Minister who stated this on Thursday at the national aviation stakeholders forum 2023 held in Abuja said that the name change would be done before the expiration of the current administration’s tenure which terminates May 29, 2023.

Aviation Minister, Senator Hadi Sirika

This is coming as the Minister reiterated that the much talked about national carrier would be delivered to Nigeria before May 29, 2023, hinting that the aviation sector roadmap had reached a 90 percent completion state.

All the crew of the new airlines, he said will be Nigerians, adding that the country’s interest would be protected.

The national aviation stakeholders’ forum is a platform for the appraisal of all the aviation agencies under the Ministry of Aviation to see whether they have delivered on the projects and to benchmark their performances.

The general consensus is that the aviation industry in the country had performed tremendously despite some of the challenges it faces.

The components of Nigeria’s aviation sector roadmaps include the concession of four airports, the establishment of a national carrier (Nigeria Air), the development of agro-filled / cargo terminals, the establishment of a Maintenance, Repairs, and overhaul (MRO) centre, the establishment of an Aviation Leasing Company (ALC) development of Aerotropolis (Airport cities).

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Others are the establishment of an Aerospace University, and improvement in aviation safety and security through upgrades and modernization of aviation infrastructure and facilities.

He said, “I want to announce to everyone in the forum that the government has concluded the plan to change the Ministry of Aviation to the Ministry of Aerospace and Civil Aviation before the end of the tenure of this administration. We have a roadmap and we have implemented the roadmap. Many of us laugh when we read in the media that we are yet to implement the roadmap and are excited that it was a failure and that nothing has been implemented.”

“It is good to tell them that we have implemented our roadmap. We developed a roadmap on May 16, 2016. We unveiled it to more than 1000 people in a forum”.

The Minister listed the benefits of a national carrier for Nigeria to include the reduction of capital flight, contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), optimal benefits of the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) and the Single Africa Air Transport Market (SAATM), development of Nigeria as a hub of aviation in West Africa, facilitation of hospitality and tourism among other benefits that the proposed national airline would engender.

He further stated, “The national carrier will fly before the end of this administration. We are intensifying discussions with Ethiopian Airlines and other consortiums. Aviation thrived and expanded more during this administration; airlines have doubled, and traffic has also doubled. Aviation in Nigeria became the third fastest growing sector of the economy”.

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Buttressing his assertion that aviation has thrived more than it was, Sirika alluded to the rate aviation industry recovered far quicker than the United States and the United Kingdom during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He lauded the tremendous work of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and its Director-General, Capt. Musa Nuhu developed an enviable recovery template that helped the country to recover fast from the pandemic.

Contrary to insinuations that the Minister had pulled back from the aerotroplis project, Sirika reaffirmed his commitment to bequeathing a better airport environment to users of the Lagos airport.

He said, “We will demolish and create a proper aviation city. You would think it is ambitious, but it is not at all. I need to quickly remind us that we will not be selling public assets in view of the concession of some of our airports. We won’t go the way of the way some of our national assets were sold without achieving anything tangible with the money.”

“Lagos airport is going to be concessioned because of the decay of infrastructure and we are going to be giving it to the private sector to develop, run it and return it to the country. We will go on with the concession and there is no going back on it that is the best way to go and those saying it will lead to job loss are only mischievous. It is not true. It would rather create more jobs”.

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While sympathizing with foreign airlines over their trapped funds, he appealed to the carriers to exercise a little more patience, adding that information available to him showed that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was already trying to sort out the problem by paying them.

He frowned at the situation, hinting that it was part of the agreement that the airlines get their money. He however chided some carriers who are taking advantage of the situation to impose visa restrictions on Nigerians among other measures the carriers are imposing on the citizens.

“The monies piled up because of the challenges we had. The government is paying in trickles. We will come out of it because we have paid in the past but they need our market more than we need their service. We are doing the best as much as we can to give them their money

Wole Shadare