By Jonathan Nda- Isaiah, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has disclosed that he is under tremendous pressure from many patriotic Nigerians to establish a national airline.
Recall that Nigerian airways ceased operations in 2003 and since then the country has not had a national carrier.
Speaking while receiving the President of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Muyiwa Aliu, at the State House, Abuja yesterday, President Buhari in a statement by his senior special assistant media, Garba Shehu declared his total support and commitment to work with regulatory agencies in the aviation sector to make air travel safer throughout the country.
On the setting up of a national airline, President Buhari said he was under tremendous pressure from many patriotic Nigerians desirous of establishing one.
“I equally support a national airline for both patriotic and economic reasons. We have enough trained citizens including pilots and engineers. But Nigerians need to know how we lost the one we had before,” he said, referring to the defunct Nigeria Airways.
He also emphasized the determination of his administration to speed up the improvement of aviation infrastructure in the country for the benefit of the country’s economic development.
The president, who received three awards recently won by Nigeria from ICAO, expressed delight with the high ranking accorded Nigeria in safety and security at the airports, following measures put in place to address gaps in airport security.
The minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika, who led the ICAO delegation, informed President Buhari that Nigeria was hosting the meeting of International World Aviation Forum in Abuja starting on Tuesday, the first time such conference will hold anywhere outside Montreal, Canada.
He said over 40 aviation ministers and representatives from 70 countries, the World Bank, African Development Bank, manufacturers of planes and aviation equipment will attend this year’s conference focusing on “Financing Development of Aviation Infrastructure.”
The president of ICAO, who is a Nigerian, commended President Buhari for fast-tracking policy initiatives that changed the fortunes of air travel in Nigeria, describing the reconstruction of the runway at the Abuja airport as a rare feat.
On behalf of the ICAO, Mr Aliu presented a certificate of recognition of the School of Aviation, Zaria as a regional center of excellence; the certification of both Abuja and Lagos airports which have attained ICAO standards for the first time in history, and another certificate marking the attainment of the International Organization for Standardization ISO 9001, 2015 by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency.
Speaking to State House Correspondents after the meeting, the vice president for private sector infrastructure and industrialisation of the African Development Bank ,Pierre Guislain said West and Central Africa are the worst connected regions in the world and the conference is meant to brainstorm and correct that anomaly.
He said, “The forum has interesting topics, the financing of aviation infrastructure, the AfDB is keen to be part of that process, we are keen to work with government, organisations, private sector, lenders, to help finance aviation infrastructure on the continent.
“West and Central Africa are the worst connected regions in Africa and probably in the world. So there are specific challenges here that we are keen to meet and to help other African and international stakeholders meet.”
On his part, the minister of state Aviation, Hadi Sirika said the purpose of the forum is to connect needs and sources of financing for member states.
He said, “ Nigeria will not be left behind. There is World Bank, Boeing, Airbus, African Development Bank, and so on and so forth. Nigeria will not sit by, we will take advantage of the opportunity to close some deals if we can or at least agree to something and sign some MoUs regarding not only the national carrier but financing of other infrastructural needs of the country.
“This is very important to us and we are grateful to ICAO for agreeing to host the forum in Nigeria. We will make sure we make progress before we depart.
“We have been working since we came, Aviation is beyond robust airport or carrier, there is a lot more. What is more important is you take off from one point and land safely on the other point.
“The civil aviation center Zaria is now called Nigeria Aviation College of Technology, has become regional, center of excellence, one of the best in the world, not more than 20 of their kind around the world. This is a plus for this administration, that we took it there.
“For the first time ever Nigeria has certified two of its airports, Abuja and Lagos according to the standards and the recommended practices of international civil aviation organization. For me this is a great achievement.
“This is what the country set up in its road map and plan to achieve, in this regard we are doing very well and we thank all partners. I will not forget NIMET also achieved international standards organization 9001 2015, making it the only African country that has achieved that. And you know NIMET is also providing services to sister African countries,” he said.
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