By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, ABUJA
THE Federal Executive Council, FEC, said yesterday that an approval had been given for the new national carrier, Nigeria Air, to lease aircraft to commence operations.
The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, disclosed this at the end of the council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
While declining to disclose when exactly the operations would begin, Sirika said the airline would start with three aircraft.
He reiterated that the airline would be owned by Nigerians with 51 percent shares, while the rest will go to foreign partners.
The minister said: “I presented two memoranda on national carrier to allow Nigeria Air to lease aircraft to start operations. That has been approved by the council.
“The second is the deployment of investigation tool by Accident Investigation Bureau. That tool will permit the accident investigation to be able to decode goings on in flights, and God forbid, should there be a need to investigate the accident or incident, the tool will help them to be able to do so.
“That procurement is in sum of 1,506,285.7 euros, which is equivalent to N707,962,864.83. This will be including taxes at central bank exchange rate of 472 in Euro with the delivery period of 11 months and is awarded to Messers integrated contract services limited for AIB.”
Answering questions on the number of aircraft the new national carrier will lease for take-off, he said: “On how many aircraft, I have said in our business plan, in the outline business case which is approved that we are starting with three aircraft, for the first instance, to do the runs and then we progress.
“As to the make and type, we will be having eventually a mix of the two, Airbus and the Boeing. Nigeria Air will start as domestic airline. And then it will, of course, grow to become regional, international and intercontinental.
“On timeline, it’s a process, we’re progressing. We will announce the commencement date soon.”
Sirika affirmed the challenges of the aviation industry in Nigeria, noting that it was a global phenomena, expressing confidence that the challenges would be overcome.
He added: “On the question of how we’re going to pull this through with the hiccups the aviation sector is facing, well certainly it is a global phenomena. Of course, I’m very sure you are abreast with the goings on around the aviation industry. However, it’s not going to be here forever. Aviation is a very resilient activity.
“From time, it always takes a deep and then come back up. We saw it in 9/11, we saw it in global meltdown, we saw it in Pearl Harbor, and so on so forth. So, aviation is very resilient. And I think we’ll get out of the problems we are facing.”