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National carrier to begin operation in 2022

By Idowu Abdullahi

The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has disclosed that National airliner, Air Nigeria, was expected to take off by April 2022 and that the carrier would generate about 70,000 jobs within five years of operation, a figure he claimed was higher than the total federal civil servants in the country.

He said that the national carrier would be run by a company in which the government would hold a 5% stake, Nigerian entrepreneurs holding 46% while the remaining 49% would be reserved for yet to be assigned strategic equity partners, including foreign investors.

While briefing State House Correspondents on Wednesday after the week’s Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the minister noted that the national carrier, when operational, would create about 70,000 jobs for Nigerians.

He explained that the Federal Executive Council approved the new national carrier, adding that that over 400,000 Nigerians participated in choosing the name which was unveiled in 2018.

According to him, today in Council, civil aviation presented two memoranda. The first one is approval for the award of contract for the provision of Automated Civil Aviation Regulatory Equipment, including software support and training, which will be located in Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport.

“The structure of the proposed airline; the government will be owning not more than 5%. So, 5 per cent is the maximum equity that government will take, then 46% will be owned by Nigerian entrepreneurs. So, if you add that, it’s 51%.”

Sirika added that with a 51 per cent share, Nigerians would own the majority while 49% would be held by strategic equity partners that would be sourced during the procurement phase.

“This airline if started, and within the first few years will generate about 70,000 jobs. These 70,000 jobs are higher than the total number of civil servants that we have in the country. Its importance had been well discussed so; I’ll not go back to it. You had discussed it separately also on various fora as to the need for it.

“But one important item is the AU agenda 2063, which speaks to the integration of Africa, which speaks to the cause and trade within Africa that is intra-Africa and to which also another flagship project of AU agenda 2063 called the Single African Air Transport Market.

“Now, the only way, the quickest way that you can integrate Africa is by air because if you want to interconnect all the 54 nations of Africa, via rail or road, or waterways, which is even impossible, the quantum of money that you need to do all of these, the time it will take to develop this infrastructure, as well as the maintenance cost, is almost prohibitive.”

Continuing, he said that the target was “doable, it’s time-taking, but with aviation, within a year, once the right policy is in place, like SAATM, you can connect Africa and then, of course, the needed integration will happen. Part of AU agenda 2063 So, these are the two memoranda that were submitted, and gladly they were passed by Council.

“The name is Nigerian Air which of course, if you remember back in time, this was subject to the national debate and 400,000 people participated, choose the name, the colour, the logo, everything and it was produced that time. It was launched also in Farnborough as far back as 2018. So, the business case is a public document. It will be on our website; you can download it and we can give you copies. This airline will pick up and start, by God’s grace, on or before April 2022.”

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