The Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, has said the new national carrier the federal government plans to float will get an expert that will advise on competition, reduction in ticket costs and provision of options for travellers.
Mr. Sirika, who briefed journalists after the Federal Executive Council meeting, said “….between now and Wednesday we will appoint transaction adviser for national carrier. Once that is in place Nigerians will have options, there will be competition, good aircraft and this will bring the price down”.
The new national carrier, the minister explained, will be jointly run by the government and the private sector as an incentive for airlines flying the route.
Mr. Sirika also said the Federal Executive Council, FEC, approved about N3 billion for the completion of the rehabilitation work on terminal building phase II and international wing of the Port Harcourt International Airport.
He said that N1.6 billion would be expended on rehabilitation of the international wing of the airport while completion of work on the terminal building phase II of the airport would cost N1.4 billion.
According to him, the council approved the project as it is captured in the 2016 and 2017 budget.
“So, very soon we will complete that very important airport, especially the arrival, Port Harcourt airport has been tagged the worst airport in the world.
“But, by the grace of God and the wisdom of the council, it has been approved and will be completed.
“The upgrade and the rehabilitation of the terminal building, international wing of the Port Harcourt from N777, 726,669. 30 to N1,684,520,310.58.
“Second one, is the refurbishment of Port Harcourt airport terminal building phase II domestic wing from N746,830,782.12 to N1,411,662,855.67.’’
He stated that government had intensified efforts towards addressing the challenges of security and safety across the nation’s airports.
Mr. Sirika said his ministry would organise a stakeholders forum where issues concerning the aviation industry would be deliberated upon with a view to finding solutions facing the sector.
“By the end of November we are going to have stakeholders meeting and some of these things will be shown there.”
He stated that the parking space at the Port Harcourt and Abuja airports were being expanded to accommodate more vehicles.
“By the time it is completed, we would have a proper parking space which you will go and park for a fee.
“Once the airport is concessioned, all these will take shape and form that you will love to see.
“Just be patient, in the next 24 to 36 months most of these things will be in place,” he added.
The minister frowned at the activities of some air carriers “like Egypt Air, British Airways, Turkish Air who fly in here with undesirable aircraft while they put on other routes better aircraft despite the fact that the Nigerian routes pay them more.”
He, however, said that his ministry had been talking to them to ensure that they change their fleets.
“We have been talking to them seriously. We are ensuring that they change their fleets. However, some of them are constrained because of the infrastructure we have in place.
“For example Emirate, Emirate will love to bring the kind of aircraft they fly around the world but the apron in Abuja is not supporting that service.
“That is why the aircraft they take to Lagos is different from the one they take to Abuja. That inadequacies is also being addressed and once that is done we will have benefiting aircraft coming.”
He stated that the government was also addressing some of the challenges being faced by some foreign carriers who were threatening to close their offices in Nigeria.
According to the minister, government is now meeting 100 per cent of foreign exchange requirement of local airlines.
“You know that aviation is dollar denominated, you buy aircraft in dollar, you service in dollar, you train your crew in dollar, you do everything in dollar. And we simply do not have the dollar to pay these airlines.
“But now as we are talking, government through the Central Bank of Nigeria has made available $300 million out of the $600 million of the airlines funds stock in Nigeria to pay the airlines to demonstrate its commitment to the sector.
“And with devaluation, $600 million could be $1 billion. Gradually, we will clear everything and once that happen they are not going to go anywhere,” he said.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who spoke on the Senate’s refusal to approve a $29.9 billion loan request by the executive for infrastructure development, said the executive arm would continue to engage the National Assembly to enable them see reason for the loans.
“Of course, it is not unusual for the executive and the legislative to have disagreement,” he said. “They want more information and we will give them and we will continue to engage them.”