Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika has assured Nigerians that Nigeria Air will begin operation before President Muhammed Buhari’s tenure ends on May 29.
Recall that a Federal High Court in Lagos which presided over a case filed by domestic airliners, had ordered the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) not to issue an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) to Nigeria Air Limited.
The domestic airline operators, under the aegis of the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), challenged the equity structure of the airline which cedes 49 per cent stake to Ethiopian Airlines, and the Federal Government having only 5 per cent while the remaining 46 per cent is for Nigerian investors.
Answering questions from reporters after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the Presidential Villa on Wednesday, April 26, the Minister revealed that everything needed to begin operation is in place.
“Nigeria Air Limited. I did say that we will get it going before the end of this administration and I’ve not withdrawn my words. We have everything in place – the aircraft, offices, operational centers, staffing and everything needed is in place. We’re doing the last minute checks and waiting for the issuance of the AOC and it will fly.
“It will fly; it will be for the benefit of this country, for the size of population, the traveling public and what it does to the economy, especially to tourism, to African integration and to the AU Agenda 2063. It’s a very important project and I must do, it will happen before the end of our tenure in the next four weeks and two days.”
Commenting on the recent strike embarked by aviation workers, Sirika said:
“So the aviation workers are striking principally for three reasons – the conditions of service for the agencies; minimum wage implementation and demolition of the headquarters of FAAN in Lagos.
“Condition of service is not in our hands, it’s in the Salaries and Income Wages. I, personally as the minister, went there with the union three times to fast track that process. So that’s being looked at by the appropriate authority and I think they are fast tracking it.
“On the implementation of the minimum wage, the Accountant General’s Office, Ministry of Finance and the agency concerned are working hard to ensure that that happens. And on the demolition of the FAAN headquarters to erect offices, shopping malls and make it what you see when you travel abroad. That is also ongoing. If you ask me to make you an omelet, you can’t complain that I’m breaking your egg; that’s a quote from one of the Managing Directors of FAAN, which I think has been overhyped, taken out of context.
“Certainly, the FAAN building was there, even before Lai Mohammed joined FAAN. So it was a transit camp for the people that built the airport, it’s made out of wood and some panels as a makeshift office, and this is what FAAN has been using on a very prime property and it’s not befitting for the FAAN Lagos office, it’s a waste of space, even catching fire twice, once during our administration so we thought that that place should leave so that we can erect offices, shopping malls, cinemas, and the rest of it.
“Airports are no longer places where you take over land. You all go to Dubai, you all go to other places and see how they are, so certainly and definitely, government would remove those wood structures and build aerotropolis components befitting of Nigeria and Lagos.”