FG Explains Temporary Suspension of National Carrier

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Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika

Chinedu Eze and Kasim Sumaina in Abuja

The federal goverment Thursday explained that the national carrier which was earlier billed to kick off in December was suspended temporarily because the process to actualise it was delayed.

The Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, has also also stated that Aviation Security (AVSEC) personnel of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) will start bearing arms within the next three months.

The government said the transaction advisers did not complete the process on modalities on the ownership of the new airline in time.

Sirika who made this known yesterday, hinted that, in recent months, several misinformation, factual errors, insinuations and fabrications have been peddled in both social and print media on the project.

He informed that, Lufthansa, which was the first approved transaction adviser was rejected due to its outrageous demands which included opening an escrow account, refusal to pay tax and demand for 75 percent up front payment.

Sirika who spoke yesterday at the 5th aviation stakeholders’ forum in Abuja, also disclosed that another major factor that stalled the process was the inability of the federal government to provide sovereign guarantee for the procurement of 30 airplanes estimated at $300 million to be paid in installment till
2020.

According to the minister, “Estimated funding requirement for the establishment of the project is 300million dollars up to 2020. Initial start–up capital of 55million dollars made up of 25 million dollars for deposit for new aircraft and 30million dollars for working capital from June to December 2018.

Saraki said Aviation Security (AVSEC) personnel of FAAN will start bearing arms within the next three months.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that Sirika made the disclosure yesterday at the fifth aviation stakeholders’ forum in Abuja.

“Within the next three months, we will get the FAAN AVSEC to start bearing arms like their counterparts in the Transportation Security Agency of the United States, ” he
said.

The minister recalled the Turkish Airline incident in 2016 where some aggrieved passengers overpowered AVSEC officials at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, and gained access to the tarmac.

Sirika also cited the recent occurrence at Sokoto Airport where some political supporters forcefully entered the tarmac, stressing that these actions were clear security breaches.

He said the personnel would be provided with new uniforms, sniffer dogs and other things that would enable them discharge their responsibilities of securing and safe guarding airline officials, passengers and other airport users. “So, for us, our focus is to ensure that we are secured and safe. Aviation is not just about building terminals because safety is one of the most critical aspect,” Sirika noted.

The minister said Nigeria scored 96.45 per cent in the last International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Universal Security Audit.

He said the country also attained level three out of the four levels of ICAO Safety Audit, thereby moving it from red to green which was a good way of attracting investors to the sector.

Sirika said the Federal Government had consolidated on these achievements by the successful Certification of the Abuja and Lagos airports as well as the ongoing processes to certify the Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu airports.

Earlier, Sabiu Zakari, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transportation, noted that the forum was aimed at interacting with the various stakeholders in the aviation industry and how to address the prevailing challenges