Aviation Experts Flay FG for Budgeting N8.5bn for Suspended National Carrier

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Hadi Sirika

Chinedu Eze

Industry experts have severally criticised the federal government for budgeting N8.5 billion for the planned national carrier, which was suspended indefinitely in October last year.

THISDAY investigations disclosed that there was no indication that the suspension of the plan to establish a national carrier would be lifted before or after the February election.

But THISDAY findings showed that during the plan to establish the national carrier, the federal government made fiscal commitments, which it intends to honour, hence the budget of the aforementioned, as N500 million was already earmarked for the payment of Transaction Advisers engaged in establishing the national airline.

Multiple sources told THISDAY that yhe fund earmarked for the national airline might be a rehash of the 2018 budget in the 2019 because it showed nothing had changed and the new estimate did not seem to take congnisance of the indefinite suspension clamped on the project.

One of the sources said, “I think the budget was the work done in 2018. The government already had the commitment to pay the Transaction Advisers.

“They might have been given half payment and if you recall during the stakeholders meeting in November last year, the Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika said commitments were made and those commitments would be honoured. So those funds would be put to honour those commitments.”

The insider, who is a top official of the Ministry of Transportation, told THISDAY that the estimated fund in the budget is not even enough to buy couple of airplanes; unless the money is meant to be used to establish offices for the planned carrier.

Also industry experts under the aegis of Aviation Round Table (ART) have condemned the federal government for earmarking the money in the 2019 budget.

President of the think-tank body, Dr. Gabriel Olowo excoriated the federal government for setting aside the sum of N500 million for Transaction Advisers in the budget, describing as fund as misplaced.

He noted that a little percentage of such amount of money if allocated to technical professionals in the country, would give the government appropriate advice on how to go about the birth of a befitting national carrier for the nation.

Olowo insisted that the government was not following the right path in establishing a new national carrier for the country and urged it to consult locally from professionals in the sector on how to re-establish a new national airline for Nigeria.

“I read it somewhere that the federal government proposed another N8.5bn for the establishment of a new national carrier for Nigeria in the 2019 budget proposal to the National Assembly. Out of this money, N500 million was set aside for Transaction Advisers.

“If you give the N500 million to people like Dele Ore and co, they will advise you better on how to have a befitting national carrier,” he said.

In a letter written to the Minister by a member of ART, Group Captain John Ojikutu, he urged government to review the methodology it adopted to establish a national carrier, noting that any plan close to the system that established the defunct Nigeria Airways Limited would not work.

“Government should set up this framework with guidelines and all the major shareholders (foreign technical investors and Nigerian private investors) to work out the modalities and business development plans which must include costs and share values/contributions for the stakeholders.

“It is when these are transparently done by the major stakeholders with approved government guidelines that we can talk of a national carrier, again not a government airline. Government alone injecting monies as initial capital and for technical advisers gives everyone, including me, the picture of another government carrier like the defunct Nigeria Airways and not a national carrier.”

Before the suspension of the planned airline, government said the proposed carrier would gulp $8.8 million preliminary cost and $300 million as take-off cost.