By Dirisu Yakubu – Abuja
Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika has called on Nigerians and foreigners alike to take advantage of the 24,000 hectares of land available as free zone in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, to invest in the nation’s aviation industry.
Sirika stated this on Tuesday in Abuja at the maiden edition of the national aviation conference organized by the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, FAAN.
The 4-Day conference which has its theme, “Advancing the frontiers of possibilities for safe, secure and profitable air transport” aims at identifying challenges and prospect of the aviation industry in post COVID-19 era.
He said, “Our four airports for now have been designated and approved as free zones. All of you should come in and invest, particularly in Abuja, where we have 24,000 hectares of land all available as free zone in the Federal Capital Territory.
“The ease of doing business ranking has risen and it is possible for you to own 100 per cent a company in Nigeria as a foreigner. So whether you are a foreigner or a Nigerian, we want to assure you that aviation sector is a place where you can put your money and you will not lose.”
That said, Sirika lauded the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari to the development of the aviation sector, noting that
the first four years of his administration (2015-2019) saw an increase in air passengers from 8 to 18 million, which made aviation, “the fastest growing industry of the Nigerian economy before COVID-19,” adding that even with the global pandemic, the sector currently ranks third fastest growing in the country.
The Nigerian aviation sector, he added, is a roadmap with lot of “latent potentials waiting to be explored. It is a virgin industry. Our national resources has position us strategically as a continental and global leader. All industry players must therefore pull resources together to take advantage of these opportunities,” he added.
He also expressed government’s willingness to listen and process proposals for the revitalization of the aviation industry, saying, “government is open to provide a level play field for competition and innovation. We are always willing and ready to discuss business and partner with innovators to bring the desired growth and development to the industry.”
In his welcome address, Managing Director of FAAN, Capt. Rabiu Yadudu told participants to maximize the opportunity offered by the conference to proffer solutions to the challenges facing the industry particularly in the wake of the outbreak of coronavirus a few years ago.
According to him, “Recent events, particularly the COVID-19 pandemic did not only impact negatively the global socio-economic space, it also slowed down global travels, consequently affecting aeronautical operations and revenue generation.”
On the prospects in the sector, the FAAN boss said, “our potentials and capacity in the global air transport industry is being grossly underutilized and if indeed we are desirous of attaining the status of a major player in the global aviation sphere, it is high time we integrated backward to reposition and move the industry forward.
He also called for a strong link between air transport, tourism and hospitality industry to attract economic values to the nation as is the practice in other nations of the world.
Veteran pilot and trainer of many Nigerian pilots, Capt. Bob Hayes in his goodwill message lauded FAAN for putting together the conference adding that “aviation being a dynamic institution, requires constant engagement among stakeholders and a forum of this nature is the right platform to review and evaluate necessary initiatives to move the sector forward.”
At the event were eminent personalities and players in the nation’s aviation sector including Director General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu; Director General, Nigerian Meteorogical Agency NiMet, Prof. Mansur Matazu; Chief Executive Officer, Accident Investigation Bureau, Engr. Akin Olateru, among others.