By Lawani Mikairu
You don’t treat your elderly citizens bad and expect the younger ones to put in their best into the system — Sirika
THE above statement made by Senator Hadi Sirika, the Minister of Aviation, gives an insight into the humane and nationalistic spirit of the man, Hadi Sirika.
He made the remark while speaking about the payment of severance benefits to former staff of the defunct Nigeria Airways who were paid their benefits by his ministry last year.
For more than 16 years, successive administrations ignored the Nigeria Airways staff who were forcefully retired after the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo liquidated the airline and sold off its assets.
Sirika mounted pressure on the Federal Government when he became the Minister of Aviation and his efforts paid off when the Federal Executive Council, FEC, approved the payment of the benefits to the Airways staff. He made another statement recently while responding to the diplomatic face-off between Nigeria and Dubai Emirate. The Dubai authorities had refused to give the Nigerian airline, Air Peace, more than one flight slot to Dubai after Nigeria had granted 21 slots to Emirates Airlines.
Sirika responded by withdrawing the earlier slots granted to Emirates and gave the airline only one weekly slot too to Nigeria. The Dubai authorities shifted grounds and had to quickly approve seven weekly slots for Air Peace instead of the three the airline earlier asked for. It was a big international aero politics victory for Nigeria. Born on March 2, 1964, in Dutsi Local Government Area of Katsina State, Senator Sirika graduated from Petroleum Helicopters Institute, Flight Safety International School and Delta Aeronautics School, all in the United States of America, USA.
In 2003, Sirika was elected into the Federal House of Representatives and he left office in 2007. He was again re-elected to represent Kastina North in the Nigerian Senate under the platform of Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, in the 2011 elections. While in the Senate, he was the portal vice-chairman; Millennium Development Goal, MDG, and a member of the Senate Committee on Aviation. He also served in a number of different committees in the Senate.
In 2015, he was appointed Minister of State for Aviation until 2019. He was reappointed as the Minister of Aviation by President Muhammadu Buhari after he won his second term in 2019. Under his tenure, the Nigerian civil aviation industry has witnessed tremendous growth and improvement. One of the major achievements of the minister is the sustenance of safety, which has been phenomenal. It is on record that since he became aviation minister there has not been an accident to commercial airlines and this has further boosted and restored the confidence of the flying public.
However, this achievement would not have been attained without the strong regulatory function of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, which he has given free hand to function. Under him, the country’s air travel has enjoyed a huge safety record, which is tremendous. The Aviation Ministry has recorded significant achievements in virtually all aspects of the sector in the past three years.
In order to grow and sustain the domestic aviation industry, the Federal Government re-introduced zero import duties on aircraft, engines and spare parts. This has been a huge relief to domestic airline operators. Sirika intervened to rescue Arik Air and Aero Contractors airlines from total collapse. The demise of the two airlines would have caused a huge loss of jobs by professionals in the sector. The two airlines are today still in operation, under receivership.
Sirika has also provided the enabling environment for domestic airlines in the country to attain certification in the International Air Transport Association, IATA, Operational Safety Audit, IOSA. Currently, five Nigerian domestic airlines have certification, and some of them have been designated for international operations.
On safety and security in the sector, the certification of Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, Ikeja, Lagos in April 2017 and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja in November 2017 was a milestone and the first-ever airport certification in Nigeria for that matter.
Senator Hadi Sirika has been the toast of Nigerians both home and abroad in recent times after he threatened to also impose a travel ban on countries that had banned flights from Nigeria in the advent of the outbreak of the third strain of COVID-19 virus, Omicron. Countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, Saudi Arabia, etc, had to quickly reverse the ban imposed on flights from Nigeria. This again was another huge diplomatic victory for Nigeria.