Uche Usim, Abuja
Minister of State for Aviation Hadi Sirika has dismissed reports that the country’s decision to establish a national airline (Nigeria Air) remains sacrosanct and has not in any way divided the Federal Executive Council (FEC) as erroneously reported in some sections of the media.
Reacting through the Ministry’s Spokesman, James Odaudu, Sirika said the media reports credited to the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi that insinuated cracks existed within FEC over the planned national carrier project was a total misrepresentation of the matter.
“It is my belief that the Honourable Minister of Transportation was misquoted by the media in this respect, as the Federal Executive Council is one cohesive body that cannot be divided over any issue.
“The Nigeria Air project has the full support of Council which deliberated on it and approved.
“Consequently, President Muhammadu Buhari directed that the Viability Gap Funding for the project be provided for in the 2019 Appropriation which the National Assembly has graciously done. “The media mix-up is regretted, and we assure the public, and, more importantly, the prospective partners and investors, that the Nigeria Air project is fully alive and on course,” Sirika explained.
Before the clarification, Amaechi was quoted in the media as saying that members of FEC share divided views on the modalities through which Nigeria Air, the proposed national carrier, should be run.
He reportedly made the assertion last Thursday at a valedictory news conference.
“On the national carrier, the cabinet is divided on the issue of modality. There are those who believe that the Federal Government should invest, and then we can sell the equity later,” he said.
“There are also those who believe that no, and from day one they say let us get investors in and give them the franchise of Nigeria Airways or Air Nigeria or whatever is called.
“That is where we are and that is what held it down. But as for whether it is still in our plan, it is and has not been abandoned.”
Recall that the federal government had unveiled the national carrier project in July 2018 at the Farnborough International Airshow in London and operations were scheduled to begin in December.
However, in a sudden twist of events, Hadi Sirika, Minister of State, Aviation, announced the suspension of the project via Twitter to the shock of many Nigerians.
“I regret to announce that the Federal Executive Council has taken the tough decision to suspend the National Carrier Project in the interim. All commitments due will be honoured. We thank the public for the support as always,” he tweeted.