By Favour Nnabugwu
Abuja—Federal government yesterday said the proposed establishment of a national carrier was to enhance competition in the nation’s aviation sector. The Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, disclosed this in Abuja while receiving the leaders of Air Transport Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, ATSSSAN, led by its President, Mr Benjamin Okewu.
He said having smaller entities with few numbers of aircraft would help the industry to be competitive, adding that the government would come up with policies to address the challenges. He expressed concern that there were many routes opened to the country that it could not take advantage of because of non-existence of a viable carrier that could operate those routes.
He explained that the new national carrier to be established would be private-sector driven, adding that the coming of the airline was not intended to kill the smaller carriers in the country. He said: “Imagine British Airways coming to Nigeria 21 times in a week, three times in a day, so also Emirate and others that are coming twice daily.
“Nigeria has no response and then what happens? The prices of tickets go up, Nigerians would not have jobs because there are pilots and engineers but cannot use their licenses. “It kills the morale of anybody because he cannot use his skill and his knowledge is wasted but what we have tried to do is to inject competition within the system by having a national carrier.
“Nigeria will continue to pay higher because for now, we don’t have any option but if we create option, certainly prices will come down and there will be more jobs for Nigerian people.” Sirika assured of his readiness to use his wealth of experience in the sector to ensure the establishment of a befitting national carrier that would serve the Nigerian people efficiently.
He promised that the government would leverage on the experience from the glory of the defunct Nigerian Airways and Ethiopian Airlines to set up a standard and efficient carrier. The minister also pledged to take drastic action to resolve the crisis generated by the takeover of management of Aero Contractors by Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, AMCON.
“I am not going to fold my arms and allow Aero Contractors to die. The sustenance of aviation industry for greater efficiency and job creation is our priority.” Sirika assured the union that all the issues raised concerning the survival of the nation’s aviation industry would be examined carefully and addressed.
He said the concession of four international airports was to ensure that the airports met standards, assuring that the policy would not lead to job loss. “Certainly, government does not have the money to build beautiful airports to meet international standards now but what is more important is to get those places to work efficiently.
“Believe that our people will get better jobs instead of losing them because government would not just do anything without considering the human face,” Sirika said. Speaking earlier, ATSSAN President, Okewu, urged the minister to look into all the concerns raised by the union, including irregular appointments in some aviation parastatals and the planned concession of airports.
Okewu also urged the minister to urgently address the crisis in Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, NAMA, by appointing an authentic management team for the agency. He also called on the minister to come to the rescue of Aero Contractors by cautioning AMCON on the proper way to manage an airline business. According to him, the airline has the capacity to serve as one of the best in Africa, if properly managed.