Sen. Hadi Sirika, the Minister of State for Aviation, on Monday said that plans were underway by the Federal Government to revisit the abandoned national carrier project ” Nigeria Air”.
The minister made this known while defending the ministry’s budget before the Senate Committee on Aviation in Abuja.
He said that the ministry only suspended the project to put adequate measures in place, promising that the project would be delivered soon.
He said the project, which was President Muhammadu Buhari’s brainchild would not be allowed to die.
He expressed concern that despite being a huge aviation market, Nigeria could not boast of a national carrier.
He said, “We have to suspend the earlier plans for the national carrier for strategic reasons. The move was not killed.
“Provisions have to be made to continue to fund activities of advisers and so on, to ensure that it is delivered.
“The carrier will be delivered within the life of this administration, this I can assure you.
“It is not forgotten by government. It will continue and we are doing everything we can to deliver it,” he said.
The minister, however, stated that the carrier would not be funded solely by government.
“It is Public Private Partnership (PPP). The private sector will lead and deliver while the government will play its role.
“Viability funding is also being addressed. After that, then the full business case which is the implementation stage. It is at that point that it will be advertised for people to come in and participate,” he said.
He said that the process would be transparently done through local and international fora and media.
He added that anybody who was interested in getting in information on funds spent and other processes was free to do so, stressing that the ministry would be willing to respond.
The minister lamented that besides the huge revenue loss due to absence of a national carrier, Nigerians still pay exorbitantly to use air carriers belonging to other countries.
According to him, one of the major ways to save Nigerians of exorbitant airfares is to have a national carrier.
“When I was in the House of Representatives in 2006, we did invite British Airways to discus and the answer we got was that they charge exorbitantly because Nigerians can afford it.
“They charge these fees without corresponding challenge. It is very difficult for the ministry to tell entrepreneurs what they should charge.
“This is the whole importance of having a national carrier. It is about competition. Nigerians are highly mobile people with very huge businesses. You find out that the first class and business class is always full,’’ he said.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Aviation, Sen. Adamu Aliero, commended the minister for his efforts at repositioning the aviation sector.
He, however, said that the sector was capable of generating huge revenue for the country if well positioned.
He advised the minister to engage more often with critical stakeholders including the National Assembly for advice in carrying out his mandate.
He further advised agencies under the ministry to be up and doing in securing the lives of Nigerians, who often use air transport as well as ensuring that they complied with international best practice.