Stakeholders in the nation’s aviation industry have proffered solutions and way forward for the newly appointed Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika.
Senator Sirika who has been the Minister of State for Aviation since 2015 was yesterday reappointed as a substantive Minister of Aviation by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
In their reactions, the stakeholders stated that the minister has a lot to do in the areas of funding, airport development, establishment of Flags carriers, Bilateral Air Services Agreements (BASAs), protection and support for indigenous airlines, so as to give the industry a new direction.
Chairman of House Committee on Aviation, Nnolim Nnaji who described Sirika’s reappointment as good for continuity noted that he expects the Minister to hit the ground running because he was already familiar with the terrains.
“There are so much to be done within a short time to prepare the industry for the challenges posed by the emerging African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA), so we don’t need a new person that will require a lot of time to learn the ropes”, he said.
The lawmaker representing Nkanu East and West Federal Constituency, Enugu State also stated that he is happy the minister is coming at the time the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, (FAAN) is commencing the reconstruction of the Enugu Airport Runway.
He urged the minister whom he said understands the problems associated to Enugu Airport, to use his knowledge as a seasoned aviator to ensure that the right things are done immediately because of the importance of the Airport to the South East.
He said: “I am sure he will be interested in finding out how the Enugu Airport runway failed within Six years of commissioning and believe he will assist our committee in unraveling the circumstances that led to the collapse of the runway during our investigation.’’
While congratulating him on his reappointment, Nnaji equally assured him of the cooperation of his committee towards providing a Safe, viable and reliable Air transport industry for the country. He stressed that he welcomed his new portfolio as a substantive Minister of Aviation which according to him will enable the Minister to be focused solely on the Aviation industry.
The aviation committee chairman further made case for adequate funding of the industry because of its strategic role in stimulating the economy of Nigeria.
Nnaji who expressed concern over the glaring dominance of foreign airlines on the nation’s major international routes said that the legislative arm of government would work closely with the executive arm of government to correct the imbalance.
Also speaking on the reappointment of Sirika, President of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), Dr. Gbenga Olowo said that the minister needs to do more and that he has barely 2 years to deliver.
Olowo said “I do not envy him for the arduous tasks a head because he has said so much in the past 4 years and expectations are so high. These 4 years have no room for rhetorics. In fact 2019 is already gone and 2023 is election year. He has barely 24 months to write his name in gold.”
He therefore, advised that Sirika should put all his focus on measurable deliverable on airport concessioning as planned and ensure to deliver 2 to 3 Airport companies of Nigeria with the Task of modern Terminal Buildings with installed High Technologies & functional car parks that will make LOS, ABV, KAN a formidable West African Hub by 2025.
He said: ‘‘This is doable judging from the case study of Ghana within a span of 4 years. There should be 2 or 3 very strong flag carriers ( along geo political, geo economic zones ) North, East, West Lines; the Nigerian sentiment who should parade minimum airworthy fleet of 25A/C each at a growth rate of 2.5% annually is desirable to compete strongly and achieve benefits latent in African Continent Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).’’
According to Olowo, the 3 airlines’ fleet combined will still not equate Emirate fleet and easily achievable through economic policy or cooperation, collaborations, Mergers & Acquisitions.
The aviation expert equally advised that there is need to deliberate Market intervention to rescue market share for the flag carriers players will be mandatory through a review of all existing Bilateral Air Services Agreements (BASAs ) through periodic schedules for equity; immediate reversal from all Multiple entry points in Nigeria to Single entry points.
“This is the necessary and sufficient condition for a viable and productive Aviation sector at Sirika’s second coming” Olowo stated.
Earlier former Secretary General of the National Union Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Comrade Olayinka Abioye had expressed the need for Sirika’s reappointment saying that it would enable the Minister to see to the completion of rehabilitation of the terminals across the country bearing in mind the huge cost outlay.
Abioye said “remember that a loan of five hundred million dollars is hanging on the neck of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) which is expected to pay back the loan. Again, there is need for refleeting of a National Carrier, giving the vast opportunities such venture will bring forth to the nation.”
Other reasons given by Abioye for Sirika to return include “deepening ongoing efforts of local airlines and helping them sustain the current tempo and creating conducive environment for their survival given the tough terrain they are operating and the stiff competition from Middle East airlines.”
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