•Unfolds plans for 10 new airports
By Deji Elumoye
The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, yesterday gave next year as the date for the take-off of a new national carrier.
He also said 10 new airports were under construction nationwide just as the Senate lamented the deplorable state of Minna, Ilorin and Makurdi airports.
Sirika, who was at the Senate to defend his ministry’s budget for 2021 before the Senate Committee on Aviation, unveiled the federal government’s road map for the aviation sector in 2021, with the establishment of a national carrier topping its priority.
According to him, the road map will be implemented through the Public-Private Partnership (PPP).
He said: “In 2021, the sum of N78.96 billion is being proposed for capital expenditure at the headquarters in the aviation ministry and the emphasis will focus on the implementation of the aviation road map by Mr. President.
“The road map would be implemented through Public-Private Partnership (PPP), topmost of which will be the establishment of the national carrier.”
Other projects to be executed are the establishment of Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility, development of agro-allied cargo infrastructure, the establishment of Aviation Leasing Company, Search and Rescue Unit and establishment of Aerospace University with the support of International Civil Aviation Organisation ( ICAO).
On the national carrier, the minister stated that all required agreements and arrangements with other partners have been worked out.
“This government right from inception in 2015 has been planning and strategising on how to resuscitate the national carrier for Nigeria as far as global air transportation is concerned. The plan, going by what is on the ground now, will be actualised next year through the PPP arrangement,” he said.
Sirika added that aviation is the fastest-growing sector of the Nigerian economy despite the setback suffered in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to him, 10 new airports are springing up in states such as Benue, Ekiti, Nasarawa and Yobe, among others, apart from other ones taken over by the federal government like Gombe, Kebbi, Dutse and Zuru Airports.
He said: “From 2015 till now, we’ve seen a lot of growth in the civil aviation, the number of airports is increasing. So far, about seven airports have been added to the map, some of them completed; some of them under construction.
“There are airports coming up in Benue, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Lafia, Damaturu, Anambra and so forth. All of these show that civil aviation is growing during this administration.
“So, we have about 10 new airports coming up; that is almost half the number of airports we used to have in Nigeria. So we are adding 50 per cent of the number of airports.”
He, however, said safety and security are more of important issues to them in the aviation sector than the establishment of new airports.
Sirika also said airports such as that of Minna, Ilorin, Makurdi, whose facilities are not in proper shape are being attended to.
On the issues of dilapidated equipment at some airports, Sirika said it is a work-in-progress as the airports are being attended to one after the other based on priorities.
Chairman of the Committee, Senator Smart Adeyemi, in his comments, requested the minister to ensure the upgrade of the Ajaokuta airstrip and the establishment of Lokoja airport.
According to him, Lokoja deserves an airport because of its proximity to Abuja like Minna.
Also, the Senate Committee on Interior yesterday suspended budget defence by the agencies under its purview on account of the #ENDSARS protests that was hijacked by hoodlums and the COVID-19 pandemic.