By Chris Ochayi
ABUJA – The Federal Government said, Thursday, that it has not abandoned the proposed national carrier, Nigeria Air project.
Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, announced this during his valedictory press briefing in Abuja, however, disclosed that the Federal Executive Council was divided on the modality for the establishment of the national carrier.
Amaechi noted that members of the federal cabinet had different beliefs and positions as regards the establishment of a national carrier for Nigeria, assured that the project had not been abandoned.
He also revealed that China had insisted that Nigeria opens a sinking fund and an escrow account in order to be able to seamlessly repay the loans which Nigeria borrowed from the Asian country for the construction of rail projects, particularly the Abuja-Kaduna rail.
According to him, “On 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.
“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.”
On loan repayment, the minister told the permanent secretary of the Federal Ministry of Transportation, who was also at the briefing, to ensure that the Nigerian Railway Corporation opens the required accounts that would help in the repayment process.
He said, “Permanent secretary hold him (NRC boss) to that instruction and the instruction is that all the money you get from Kaduna-Abuja railway every month, put it in an account. Remove the cost of operation. Whatever remains, let us start paying back; let’s develop a sinking fund or an escrow account where we pay that money into.
“So that we can even on our own start the payment before the Federal Government starts paying. Why I say this is because when we got to China, they insisted because of what they experienced with Kenya, Somalia and Sudan on their inabilities to pay back.”
“They insisted that we must open two kinds of accounts, an escrow account and a sinking fund account. The sinking fund account will require that every year we will put money there which is for the repayment of the loan, while the money for the management of that operation will be put in the escrow account.
“Let them put that money in the required account. But for now nothing has been repaid. It is good you asked that question because I gave them that instruction and I’m not sure it’s been implemented up till now.”