From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuj
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, on Wednesday disclosed that the new national carrier may commence operation by the first quarter of 2022.
He said this while addressing State House Correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting.
According to Sirika, the new national carrier is long overdue and the private sector-run airline will be in operation by early 2022, with possibly cheaper rates.
He added that the new national carrier is expected to be a viable airline and is potentially poised to cater to millions of travelers in Nigeria and Africa.
According to the Aviation Minister, the COVID-19 pandemic the forced postponement of the planned date for the establishment of the National Carrier initially planned for the end of 2021.
He disclosed that the Ministry would return to the council in two weeks to submit a memo with an outline business case for council’s approval.
He said: “In this 2021, we’ll try to do all the needful and probably we intend to start operations somewhere around first quarter 2022. It is still in top gear, we are coming back to Council, hopefully within the next two weeks, to present the memo on the national carrier.
“We went to Council to approve the outline business case for the carrier and then the Council raised some questions and asked us to go and fair the memo again and bring it back. So, once it comes back and the outline business case is approved by Council, then of course, we will now go to the full business case, which is now going to the market and then establishing the national carrier.
“It was our intention to have a national carrier running in 2021, which is this year, unfortunately due to COVID, which took the greater part of last year, since March last year, activities are almost impossible. This in itself, though negatively affected civil aviation in terms of the establishment of the national carrier, it makes it much better time to establish the carrier than before.
“Of course, for obvious reasons, we now have access to equipment, that they will come faster to us, deliveries of the aircrafts will be faster, perhaps even the rates might be cheaper and so on, and so forth.
“So, we’ll go to Council on that and then we’ll further brief you, but it’s on top gear and we need it more than yesterday. The COVID-19 has exposed the nation, that the lack of having a very strong, viable airline is bad for the economy of Nigeria, and for any country for that matter. His ministry, Tourism, for example, is badly affected by lack of its presence.
“Finally, it’s to just say that Nigeria is the best candidate to have an airline; 200 million mobile people that travel, sometimes almost for nothing; sitting within the West African subregion, 400 million people; contiguous with Central Africa, 600 million people, twice the population of the US, equal to the population of the entire continental Europe; at the centre of Africa, Nigeria; equal distance from all locations; rising middle class, proficiency to fly is high. Nigeria is the best candidate for a very robust carrier”, Sirika explained.