At the just concluded discussion on the future of global aviation at the ongoing World government Summit (WDS) In Dubai, Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika emphatically stated the government’s commitment to a private-sector driven aviation industry other issues bothering on why Nigeria needs a National airline and response to Covid-19 pandemic were looked at.
On Nigeria’s response to the pandemic, Sirika said: “The countries have to do it. Look at the case of Nigeria. We have 200 million people in Nigeria and most of them living close to each other in cities jam-packed with 20 million people in Lagos and 40 million people in Kano, something has to be done unless, people would die. We closed the country immediately at that time. And that is why in Niger, up till today only 3500 death recorded from Covid19, and just about 250, 000 infected and 245,000 discharged from the hospital. Richard asked the minister if he believe the statistics on pandemic and he responded that he does. Sirika said: “Yes I believe. Otherwise people would have been going to the grave unexplained. It worked very well, then, gradually things began to ease out and business began. Don’t forget before Covid-19, Nigerian aviation became the fastest growing sector of the economy. The airlines are doubled, passengers numbers quadruple, numbers of airports doubled all during Buhari administration of 6 years.
Sirika responded: “Absolutely. When we came with Buhari government in 2015 which I became the minister. We were committed to a roadmap to establish a National Carrier, to concession the airports, to set-up a leasing company, to establish cargo facilities and we have been doing that”.
The minister responded to reason the country want a National Carrier. “Nigeria is situated at the centre of Africa, equidistant from all locations in Africa. 30.4 million square kilometres miles, 1.5 billion people, very green land. If Central and Eastern Africa is the belt of the continent, than Nigeria is the buckle. 200 million people and rising middle class, propensity to fly is high. Nigeria is a candidate for National Carrier.”
If the airline is going to be private? Minister answered: “Private. Yes. 5 per cent government and no government stepping right in that company, no government control, no membership of government on board. Totally private and committed.”
Quest also asked if government would be able to keep hands off it and the minister reiterated that no government interference.
“Whatever we say we will do as a government since 2015, it has happened. that is why Tim Clark’s Emirate, Qatar Airways and all of them are looking to go into Nigeria in multiple frequencies and multiple landing points because Nigeria is the right place for airline business.
Quest asked Timothy Clark, the President of Emirates airline if he would get involve in Nigeria’s feat of establishing a carrier. Clark responded: “ Is there a Business Case for the carrier? Of course there is.There is enormous Business Case to it. Nigerians are seeking to travel all over the world.Nigeria is a power house of Africa. We are over interested in flying there because it is a rich nation in terms of demand for services. It is a very rich nation. If the minister needs some assistance in how they go about practising a blueprint, we are very happy to help but I would say not to be too disingenuous to ourself, I they they got the wherewithal they clearly understand what they are doing and they are doing it and probably in the next year they will a very good carrier flying and please come to Dubai because there is so much demand.
H.E. Luis Felipe de Oliveira,Director General of Airports Council International commented in terms of airport capacity: “The potential is huge not only in Nigeria but Africa. We need to find a way that we can to reduce the restriction inside and outside of Africa to bring more passengers t continue to fly.
Quest conclusively asked the minister one change he would love to see when his time ceases as a minister.
“I want to like to see that Nigerian aviation industry continues to be is led and private sector-driven and there is more efficiency and safety in the sector and given that we have added 50 million capacity to four airports recently. We are building more runways and treating the issue of Air Navigation Services (ANS) and all of those things that will make aviation smooth, efficient and safe and most preferred option of travel. And if you look at it continentally, Africa, the only way African Union (AU) agenda 2063 can be achieved is by aviation because rail and road takes tremendous quantum of money to establish and to maintain over continent of about 54 countries in 30.4 million square kilometre.