FG to resuscitate airstrips to tackle insecurity
Chinedu Eze in Lagos and Kasim Sumaina in Abuja
Air Peace yesterday received the first Embraer E195-E2 aircraft out of the 13 firm orders from the Brazilian manufacturer.
The airplane arrived the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, from Recife airport, Brazil.
This is coming as the Minister of Aviation Senator Hadi Sirika has reiterated federal government’s commitment to resuscitate and ensure functional airstrips all over the country, to combat insecurity and boost commercial activities.
Air Peace is the first African carrier to take delivery of this brand new aircraft type with 30 requests, which include 13 firm orders and 17 purchase right orders, coming second to Lufthansa globally, which ordered 35.
Receiving the aircraft in Nigeria, which landed at 2:00 pm at the Abuja airport, the Chairman of Air Peace, Mr. Allen Onyema has called on the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer, Embraer to establish Maintenance, Overhaul and Repair (MRO) facility in Nigeria.
Onyema said the airline would not pay VAT and Customs duties on the new planes, describing that as a big financial relief.
Onyema thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for making the delivery of the ordered plane possible.
He also thanked the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika for his tireless support and encouragement to Nigerian airlines, noting that it was in response to his challenge of the airlines to acquire new planes that spurred Air Peace to order the new aircraft.
The Air Peace Chairman also thanked the National Assembly Committees on Aviation for facilitating the passage of the waiver to airlines, adding that the 13 aircraft would create 8,000 jobs for Nigerians.
Speaking, the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika described the aircraft delivery by Air Peace as a step in the right direction.
He said the bold step by Air Peace aligned with federal government’s road map for the aviation sector.
The minister said the use of newer airplanes by Nigerian carriers would change the dynamics in airlines’ profitability and sustainability by driving down maintenance and fueling cost.
In a speech, the Brazilian Ambassador to Nigeria, Ricardo Guerra de Araujo, said the feat of Air Peace was remarkable for Nigeria and Africa, as the airline is the launch customer of this aircraft type in the continent.
The ambassador also expressed optimism that Air Peace would consider direct flight between Nigeria and Brazil.
Speaking about the aircraft type, the President/ CEO, Commercial Business Aviation, Embraer, Mr. Arjan Meija, said “The E195-E2 tagged Profit Hunter aircraft will help Air Peace achieve its ambition of connecting not just all of Nigeria, but the whole of the African continent, while feeding long-haul flights from their Lagos hub.
“Air Peace is also the first airline to configure a premium cabin with our staggered seat option. Each of the 12 Business Class seats is slightly offset from the other to give more space and privacy. There are three rows of seats arranged two-by-two at 51-inch pitch at the 124 seater aircraft. Passengers by the windows have unobstructed access to the aisle; they don’t need to awkwardly step over their seatmates or ask them to move,” he said.
“The new 124-seat E2s complement the airline’s eight 50-seat E145s flying with Air Peace Hopper. The Embraer fleet will create greater regional and domestic connectivity from the carrier’s Lagos hub,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of governors from Edo, Ondo, Anambra, Delta and Benue states, Governor Godwin Obaseki commended Air Peace and urged it to rethink how to create regional hubs for air transport in Nigeria.
He described air transportation as the catalyst that would push for economic integration of the states in Nigeria and West Africa sub-region and called on other operators in the industry to consider ways of achieving affordable fares for air travellers.
Meanwhile, Sirika has reiterated federal government’s commitment to resuscitate and ensure functional airstrips all over the country, to combat insecurity and boost commercial activities.
He stated this when a delegation sent by Emir of Hadejia and led by a former Deputy Governor of Jigawa State, Senator Ibrahim Hassan visited his office on Thursday in Abuja
Speaking specifically on Hadejia airstrip, he said many reasons have pushed for the resuscitation of airstrips among which was historical purposes and to combat insecurity in the country.
Sirika, in a statement issued by the Director, Public Affairs, Mr. James Odaudu, noted: “As we are facing by security challenges, siting functional airstrip in Hadejia will help in combating insecurity as the airstrip can be used by the Nigerian Airforce, Police and of course civil aviation.”
He further added that Hadejia once doubled as a centre of learning, trade and commerce in Northern Nigeria.
“We are starting now by engaging aviation experts and consultants to come up with an assessment. In our plans, the airstrip is going to be managed in a such a way that there is a plan for future expansion in term of landmass and commercial activities.”
He assured the delegation that everything would be done as soon as possible by the ministry to actualise it and that the ministry will also find an appropriate way of funding the project.
Earlier, the leader of the delegation, Senator Ibrahim Hassan told the minister that they were in his office to appreciate the ministry’s effort towards resuscitating Hadejia airstrip.