…Says National Carrier tops FG’s Aviation Roadmap for 2021
…As Senator Adeyemi Solicits for Lokoja Airport
By Henry Umoru
THE Federal Government told the Senate Tuesday that arrangements are in top gear for ten new Airports in the country as part of moves to boost the Aviation sector.
Disclosing this today in Abuja when he appeared before the Senator Smart Adeyemi, All Progressives Congress, APC, Kogi West led Senate Committee on Aviation for 2021 budget defense by the Ministry of Aviation and its agencies, the Minister, Senator Hadi Sirika, said that both the executive arm of government and the National Assembly have collaborated for the growth and development of the civil Aviation sector since 2015 when the current administration came on board through the development of a roadmap, which is being implemented.
The Minister who noted that the Aviation sector has become the fastest growing sector of the economy, despite the setback suffered from the COVID -19 Pandemic, said that this explained why the government is planning to build new seven airports in Anambra, Benue, Ekiti, Nasarawa, Ebonyi, Gombe, among other states.
He also noted that Kebbi, Osubi, Dutse airports have been taken over by the Federal Government while the Gombe State government had also written the federal authorities, asking it to take over the Gombe Airport.
Sirika said, “There are airports coming up in Benue, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Lafia, Damaturu, Anambra and so forth. All of these show that civil aviation is growing during this administration.
“So, we have about 10 new airports coming up, that is almost half the number of airports we used to have in Nigeria. So we are adding 50 per cent of the number of airports.”
Meanwhile, the Senate Committee on Aviation has bemoaned the state of dilapidated facilities at Minna Makurdi, Ilorin Airports, Zuru and Ajaokuta airstrips.
Speaking further yesterday, Sirika who unveiled the Federal Government’s road map for the Aviation Sector in 2021 with the plan for National Carrier serving as its topmost priority, said that the Road map to be implemented through Public Private Partnership ( PPP) has establishment of National Carrier as top priority.
Sirika said, “Safety and security issues first before any other thing in the Aviation sector the reason why efforts are being made to put some of the Airports with issues of failing infrastructure in good shape.
“In 2021, the sum of N78.960billion is being proposed for capital expenditure at the headquarters in the Aviation Ministry and the emphasis will focus on the implementation of the Aviation Roadmap as by Mr President.
“The roadmap would be implemented through Public Private Partnership, topmost of which will be the Establishment of National Carrier.”
According to him, other projects to be executed as spelt out in the road map are establishment of Maintenance , Repair and Overhaul ( MRC) facility , Development of Agro – Allied Cargo Infrastructure , Establishment of Aviation Leasing Company, Search and Rescue Unit and Establishment of Aerospace University with the support of International Civil Aviation Organization ( ICAO).
On the National Carrier, the Minister stressed that all required agreements and arrangements with other partners , have been worked out , making 2021 as the year the plan that has been in the pipeline ,will get practical actualization.
He said, “This government right from inception in 2015, has been planning and strategizing on how to resuscitate National Carrier for Nigeria as far as global Air Transportation is concerned, the plan going by what is on the ground now, will be actualize next year through the PPP arrangement.”
At the meeting, Chairman of Aviation Committee, Senator Smart Adeyemi asked the Minister to ensure that the Federal Government upgrades the Ajaokuta Airstrip and establishment of Lokoja Airport.
After the presentation and when asked to speak on the need to site another airport in Lokoja, Kogi State as alternate to Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, the Aviation Minister said, “Lokoja is an important northern town. It is a cosmopolitan town, it’s a mini Nigeria and it is extremely very important in growth and development of our country.”
“We have a lot of agricultural activities around there. There is fishery; there is perishable item production and so on. So sitting an airport there is quite apt. For me, it is is something we should have done long ago for its importance,” Sirika said.
On the issues of dilapidated equipment at some airports across the country, Sirika who noted that it was work in progress as the airports are being attended to one after the other based on priorities, said, “We have being improving these airports one airport after another. We don’t have the resources to take them all at once. We are attending to them; we look at an airport and find which that safety item is and which is that item of security that needs attention first before we now turn to other matters. Certainly we are making Ilorin one of the best airports because in the first place it was an alternate for Lagos.”