Sirika: Why FG is Shopping for Investors for National Carrier, Airport Concessions, Others

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Dele Ogbodo in Abuja

The Minister of State for Aviation, Mr. Hadi Sirika, monday said the absence of a strong carrier, lack of major Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities and the inefficient airport operations were some of the reasons why the government was shopping for partners to invest their resources to recreate the sector.

The minister, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mr. Sabiu Zakari, made the disclosure at the International Air Transport Association (IATA) conference in Abuja, said the country which serves both the West and Central African market of 600 million people had no significant aviation businesses.

On partnerships, he said: “The aviation sector is full of opportunities, some of which include the concession of the Abuja, Kano, Lagos and Port Harcourt airports, partnership to establish a national carrier, and establishment of MRO centre.

“Aviation Leasing Company (ALC), Development of Agro-cargo Terminals and associated infrastructure partnership to upgrade the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) in Zaria.”

He said government would also partner the private sector in hospitality, hotels, resorts and logistics, adding that it would include facilitation of taxi and car hire services.

According to Sirika, the present administration would use aviation as a tool for national development and economic rejuvenation. The West and Central Africa belt hubs which Nigeria services is a big market waiting for exploitation.
He said: “This belt, with a population of 600 million people, is with a total absence of any significant aviation businesses. However, as bad as this may sound, it will surely gladden the heart of an investor.

“So Nigerian aviation is as virgin as you would love it. The Nigerian economy has high rate of return on investment in excess of 30 per cent.”

The minister explained that arrangements had reached advanced stage for the local production of aviation fuel (jet A1), adding that this brings down its cost and regularises supply.
He called on investors to put their resource in the setting up of a refining facility for local consumption and export.

“High cost of aircraft maintenance- government is in the process of establishing a major MRO through PPP to allow for A to D checks of most aircraft type.

“The MRO will have an engine, battery, wheels and brakes, upholstery and galley shops. Because of shortage of manpower, government is partnering the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), donor countries and agencies to establish an aviation university in Abuja.”

In a remark, Mr. Hussein Dabbas, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East, called on African governments to prioritise the development of aviation to bolster economic growth and development.

According to him, Africa is set to be one of the fastest-growing aviation regions over the next 20 years, with annual expansion averaging nearly five per cent.

This, Dabbas admitted, would open up economic opportunities for the continent, adding that by transporting 70 million passengers annually, aviation sector already supports over seven million jobs and $80 billion of economic activity on the African continent.

Also in her remarks, the Secretary General of the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC), Ms. Iyabo Sosina, said studies alluded to the fact that aviation traffic in Africa would double in 2030, adding that there is need for governments to increase its human and infrastructure capacities.

She said only African countries have pledged their commitment to operate a single African aviation market. Sosina urged for the removal of multiple taxation and reduction of high operation cost which she said limits the growth of local carriers.