Keyamo: Nigeria Air Project Was Fraudulent, Remains Suspended

Festus Keyamo, Aviation Minister

Festus Keyamo, Aviation Minister

•Says current administration resolved 2nd Abuja runway imbroglio in two weeks

•To resume concession of four international airports

Kasim Sumaina in Abuja

The Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Mr. Festus Keyamo, yesterday, disclosed that the Nigeria Air project unveiled by the ex-president Muhammadu Buhari-led administration remains suspended even as he described the project as fraud.

Keyamo, who was part of the Buhari government, said this while giving details about the project.

He noted that the national carrier that was supposed to be an indigenous project and was supposed to spark hope for Nigerians, was trailed by a lot of secrecy and fraudulent activities.

He explained that there was never a project to that effect but, “An Ethiopian Airline disguising as Nigerian Air with an Ethiopian National Flag.”

While fielding questions from journalists during the second day of the Ministerial Sectorial update in Abuja, he maintained that the project remains suspended, adding that it was anti-Nigeria.

According to Keyamo, “It was never Air Nigeria, it was Ethiopian trying to fly our flag. It was not Air Nigeria. That is the truth. It was not Nigeria. It only printed Air Nigeria.

“It was an Ethiopian airline trying to fly our flag. If it is so, why not allow our local people to fly our flag? Why bring a foreigner to fly our flag?

“So nobody should deceive you that Air Nigeria must be indigenous, must be wholly Nigeria or must be for the full benefit of Nigerians. Note that 60 per cent of the profit is given to another country. How does that benefit us? It remains suspended. It remains so,” he said.

Speaking further on some of the steps so far taken to boost activities in the aviation sector, Keyamo highlighted the commencement of cargo flights, stating that, “it will enable Nigeria to tap into the $6 trillion global cargo market.”

“We have agreed that we’re going to resume cargo flights between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. This has been suspended for a long time but now cargo flights are back.

“Guess what? Air cargo trade accounts for 35 per cent of the world trade deficit and air cargo trade according to the International Air Transport Association, IATA attracts about $6 trillion annually and we’re missing you know, within that sector we were missing in many routes around the world and we have achieved that,” he said.

Speaking further on his achievements, the Aviation Minister said all trapped funds of foreign airlines have been cleared.

His words: “We all know this issue was the issue of trapped funds of the international airlines. Their funds were trapped here because of lack of liquidity on the part of Nigeria because of so many subsidies we pay with our foreign earnings.

“Also, foreign airlines were threatening to stop operating in Nigeria. Now, I must give credit to all those in the financial sector for this. We had to work closely with the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Minister of Finance,

“We had to work closely with all of the ministers in the financial sector and by our persistence we are happy to announce that we have cleared all the trapped funds.”

Further highlighting his achievements, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), pointed out that issues surrounding the second runway at Abuja’s Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport were addressed within two weeks of his appointment, promising enhanced airport capacity and operational efficiency.

He explained: “The issue of the Abuja airport second runway has been there since Obasanjo administration, as a SAN, I had to deploy my expertise to resolve this imbroglio.

“Imagine we are holding a world conference of various Heads of Government, and something happened at the only runway we have, do we cancel the event? So, the project is currently ongoing after meeting with the settlers.”

He added that the current administration under his leadership as Aviation and Aerospace Development Minister, efforts have been geared towards prioritising and assisting local airlines.

He disclosed that the move was to help the country take full advantage of its reciprocal right under the BASA agreement with various countries.

Keyamo further said the open sky operation with the United States have begun, explaining that Nigerians would begin to enjoy unrestricted number of flights to the US, deployment of any kind of aircraft on those routes, and with multiple entry points.

On airport concessions, Keyamo disclosed that concession of the four major international airports would have to start all over again, stating that advert placement have begun.

“Until full concession is in place in our four major airports, nothing will work,” he stressed.

He, however, said within the next six months, the aviation sector would witness more growth under his watch.

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