From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The African Development Bank (AFDB), yesterday indicated its willingness to help Nigeria set up a new national airline to meet its growing demand for improve aviation facility.
This indication was given by the president of the International Aviation Organisation (ICAO) council, Dr Olumuyiwa Bernard Aliu, during a courtesy call on President Muhammadu Buhari ahead of the ICAO, World Aviation Forum (IWAF) scheduled to open today in Abuja.
Bernard Aliu who regretted that Nigeria and other West African and Central African countries have the worst airline connectivity in the world said that they were in the country for the benefit of the country’s economic development.
This was as Buhari said that he was under pressure by Nigerians to set up a national airline considering that even smaller African countries like Ethiopia and Rwanda have thriving national airlines.
Recall that Buhari had set a committee to set up a new national carrier with the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika at the driver’s seat. Just last week, the Minister had in his twitter handle said that the Federal Government will sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Boeing for the establishment of a national carrier. He also revealed that another aircraft manufacturing company Airbus had equally indicated interest in partnering with Nigeria on the same project and will in addition establish a Maintenance Repair Overhaul (MRO) facility in the country.
The delegation which was led by Benard Aliu, included the Vice President for Private Sector, Infrastructure and industrialization of the African Development Bank, Pierre Guislain and the Secretary General, African Commission for Civil Aviation, Iyabo Sosina and the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika.
Speaking to newsmen at the state house, Aliu said: “The forum has interesting topic: “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.”
The ICAO President, said he led the delegation to brief Buhari on the significant recognition that Nigeria is receiving when it comes to aviation development and to commend him on the efforts the nation is making to improve aviation in the country, adding that the development of civil aviation in Nigeria affects the whole region being the African regional leader.
He said Nigeria’s commitment has led to a number of recognitions coming from the international community.
According to him, “one of that is the fact that Nigeria has recognized the Nigeria College of Aviation in Zaria as a regional training center of excellence and we are happy at the focus on infrastructural development and the efforts of World Aviation Forum, which is to foster the financing for aviation infrastructure, to assist not only Nigeria but all the African states.
“We will be adopting on the last day a declaration which we expect the assembly of heads of government to adopt, that will empower ICAO to support the process of infrastructural development in Africa effectively.”
The Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika said that the purpose of the forum in Nigeria 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 seat by, we will take advantage of this 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.”
The Secretary General, African Commission for Civil Aviation, Sosina said that the forum is an opportunity to advance the agenda of aviation in Africa as her organization is responsible for all matters of aviation on the African continent and work closely with the international civil aviation organization and other partners.
She said: “The idea is for us to use aviation as the catalyst for growth. A lot of countries have done this in the past and are reaping the reward. Especially in Africa, it is interesting to note that countries like Ghana, Togo, Rwanda, Ethiopia are using aviation to develop their economy. So, I believe Nigeria should take the lead and use Aviation to galvanize its economy as well.
“And we want to take the message of connectivity to the African states to all the economic sectors of Africa because it is only when we let them know what the benefits that are derivable from connectivity through the singular African air transport market and IWAF, that they will understand that if they invest in Nigeria they will recoup their investment in a very short time. Nigeria is one of the countries that have signed the solid commitment to buy into the single African air transport market.
“By the time they realise the benefits in terms of employment—airports benefiting from it, airlines benefiting from it, airspace management benefiting from it, I believe that every sectoral minister will be putting pressure on the aviation minister to buy into it so that the economy can be accelerated for the benefits of Nigerians and all Africans as well.”