The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has said the Federal Government will complete the ongoing concession of some international airports and the launch of Nigeria Air before May 29.
He spoke against the backdrop of the various controversies and litigation surrounding the national carrier project and airport concession programme.
He made this known at the ongoing National Aviation Stakeholders Forum 2023 in Abuja on Thursday.
Sirika said, “Negotiation meeting with the Ethiopian Airlines Group Consortium and the Federal Government of Nigeria ongoing. Next step: Federal Executive Council (FEC) approval of the Full Business Case (FBC). We will commence operation of local and international flights soon. Before the end of this administration, before May 29, we will fly.”
According to the minister, the project is 98 per cent completed.
‘All of the roadmap items except perhaps the airline which in my opinion is in 98 per cent completion, and we will fly within these remaining two months by the grace of God. We will also finish the airport concession. So, all those things we said we will do when we came in, we did them,” he added.
Speaking further, the minister listed the benefits Nigeria stands to derive from the establishment of the national carrier as reduced capital flight, optimal benefit of BASA and SAATM, and development of an aviation hub.
He also said the proposed national carrier would contribute to economic growth, facilitate hospitality and tourism; enhance growth and development of the Nigerian agricultural sector and create jobs around the agro-cargo terminals.
Sirika further said, “Those who worked closely with me know that this is my forecast and what I wanted because I believe if you partner with Lufthansa for example, automatically you will have a licence to fly. I thought we would do that and I made attempts to reach them and invited them as I did with all airline owners in Nigeria except Overland.
“I reached out to them personally to come and partner to create a strong airline but fast forward, we had a bidder, Ethiopian Airlines. I was very happy that we got them (Ethiopian) to come. It was not my choice but I am happy now knowing what I know. They are a household name, strong and they have been in business for 70 years unbroken and they have over 200 aircraft. So, I am very glad we are partnering with them and it is a reality.
He added, “Some airlines are in court and their grouse is that it can be any airline in the world but not Ethiopian because, in their own way, they think Ethiopian is a competitor.
“A recent aviation sector study for Nigeria by International Air Transportation Association in June 2020, showcases the significant contribution of air transportation to the national economy, through providing 241,000 jobs (direct and indirect) and a contribution of $1.7bn to the national economy.
“However, with the successful implementation of the roadmap projects, our overall goal is to grow the aviation sector’s contribution from the current 0.6 per cent to five per cent approximately $14.166bn.”