Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, wednesday dismissed the call by the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) to transform Arik Airline into a national carrier.
Answering questions from State House correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, Sirika said the airline lacked the capacity to function as a national carrier.
According to him, the best the airline can do is to buy shares in the new national carrier when it eventually makes a debut or invest in the business wherever it deems fit.
The minister who said those advocating the transformation of Arik into a national carrier did not understand his ministry’s agenda for a national carrier, explained that the would-be national carrier must be an airline that can support the national economy with $450 million to boost the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and effectively serve 200 million people.
He said upon the evolvement of African Union (AU) Agenda 2063, which included the idea of a Single African Aviation Market two decades ago, Nigeria thought its then flagship carrier, Nigeria Airways, could take advantage of the initiative as the strongest airline on the continent then.
However, he said the situations later turned the other way round and Nigeria lost that opportunity, adding that the assumptions that Arik should be considered as the national carrier is not tenable because the airline as it is today lacks what it takes to function in that capacity.
Earlier, Sirika had said FEC approved N574 million for insurance and special risk projects for the Aviation College in Zaria and jacked up the contract sum for the construction of perimeter fencing for Port Harcourt Airline to N2.7 billion with the approval of over N200 million to augment the earlier cost.
Also briefing, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, said the council approved N3.239 billion for the completion of the National Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) zonal office in Bauchi.
Ahmed who said the contract sum included the value added tax (VAT), added that the project would be completed in 96 weeks.
Ahmed also said FEC approved another N2.489 billion for the development of Abuja corporate office annex of NDIC as well as the Ikoyi and Lekki offices of the company in Lagos. She said the sum was approved as sum for 12 consultancy firms.