Nigeria Air to Commence Operations Before May, Sirika Insists

*Says project 98% completed

Kasim Sumaina in Abuja

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, yesterday in Abuja hinted that the ongoing process for the kick off of the national carrier, Nigerian Air was in the final phase, saying that it would commence operations before May 2023, despite legal issues on the matter.

Sirika gave the hint at 10th Aviation Stakeholders’ Forum which brought together all relevant industry players within and outside the industry in Abuja.
The Aviation Minister revealed that local and international flights would commence soon stating that, “negotiation meeting with the Ethiopian Airlines Group Consortium and the Federal Government of Nigeria are ongoing.”

Sirika maintained that the benefits Nigeria stood to derive from the establishment of the national carrier includes reduced capital flight, gain from the optimal benefit of BASA and SAATM and develop an aviation hub.

According to him, “the National carrier will contribute to the Gross Domestic Product; facilitate hospitality and tourism; facilitate growth and development of the Nigerian Agricultural Sector and create jobs around the Agro-Cargo Terminals.”
He further revealed that the national carrier project was 98 per cent completed, adding that successful implementation of the aviation roadmap would gulp $14.166 billion.

On the trapped funds of foreign airlines, the minister said the federal government had put up measures to ensure that the money doesn’t pile up again.
He said the ministry was handicapped because it has limited power as to what to do about the trapped funds because the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) controls and handles foreign exchange matter.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) recently said trapped funds belonging to foreign airlines operating in Nigeria had reached $743,721,097 from $662 million in January 2023.
According to a letter addressed to the Minister of Aviation and signed by the area manager, West and Central Africa, IATA, Dr. Samson Fatokun, the global airline community had sought an intervention from the Minister for the resolution of issue of airlines’ blocked funds in Nigeria.

Speaking on development of Cargo /Agro-Allied Airport Terminals airports across the country, the Aviation Minister revealed that Kebbi, Katsina, Plateau, Yola, Edo, Ekiti, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Lagos, Kano, Enugu and Calabar are presently being developed as locations for such.

He stressed that the cargos airports would take advantage of the high value agricultural products’ potential of Nigeria, among others.
He stated that the terminals would be established via a Design, Build, Operate and Maintain model of Public Private Partnership (PPP).
“The proposed terminals will have facilities such as a dry Cargo Terminal Warehouse; Perishable Cargo Terminal with Cool Chain Storage; climate chambers for storage and handling of temperature sensitive products including Pharmaceuticals and Bonded Warehouses.

He however said that Kaduna, Kwara and Imo State had shown interest and, “we are currently discussing. Other states are encouraged to develop Cargo /Agro-Allied terminals.”

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