Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government on Wednesday, dismissed calls for Arik Air to be converted into a national carrier rather than establishing a brand new one.
The government said Arik Air now under its management is not suitable for a national carrier.
Government’s clarification came as the Managing Director of Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), Ahmed Kuru, recently urged the Muhammadu Buhari administration currently tinkering with the idea of setting up a new natioanl airline to convert Arik Air to its national carrier.
But briefing State House Correspondents after a meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said Arik Air is not suitable for a national carrier.
The minister who was reacting to AMCON’s said: “Thank you for that question on the conversion of Arik into a national carrier. I think something is not understood very well from the standpoint of the Ministry of Aviation via the intended national carrier. The carrier that I intend to bring is such a carrier that will support national economy, with $450 million GDP for 200 million people, very equipped to compete favourably.
“The international airlines that have dominated Africa, 80 percent of those airlines are non-African. In view of the AU Agenda 2063, the Single African Aviation Market, we thought that there will be an airline that will take up that challenge; that will take advantage of it and be able to provide services to our people.
Nigeria, being the first country to kick-start the declaration in 1999, to establish a one common market in Africa; at the time, we wanted to take advantage of the Nigeria Airways which was the strongest airline on the continent, and we thought that we could take advantage of that and it would pay Nigeria very well. Tables turned, decisions were reversed and now, Nigeria was unlucky not to have an airline that can participate in that manner.
“So, the answer to your question is that Arik, as presently constituted, is not in line with the thinking of the ministry. It will not be able to give us that airline we need. However, Arik as an entity, since it is private-sector driven, can either buy shares in the new ventures or invest in any manner in the business as presently approved.
“We are not saying once we have a national carrier, every other airline goes down. No. It is our duty to continue to support their businesses.” He said
Sirika, said that FEC also approved N574 million for insurance of College of Aviation in Zaria.
He also said that N271 million was approved for perimeter fencing of Port Harcourt International Airport, which was abandoned since 2011.
“Today in Council we considered two memoranda from the Ministry of Aviation and the first was for a special risk insurance for the assets of the College of Aviation Technology Zaria and this includes the personnel that will be manning those machines and its for the sum of N574, 311, 407.43, which included VAT of five percent to cover from 10th June 2019 to 2022 but yearly payments will be made in accordance with the extent laws regulations.
“The second memorandum is for the fencing and perimeter road of Portharcourt International Airport. This project was abandoned since 2011 and in response to the philosophy of President Muhamamdu Buhari to complete all abandoned and on-going projects, this safety and security critical item, we thought in our wisdom needs to be completed,” he said.