Stakeholders push for airport dev, BASA, others

Stakeholders in the nation’s aviation industry have pointed the way forward for the new Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika.

President Muhammadu Buhari recently appointed Sirika, who had been the Minister of State for Aviation since 2015, as the substantive minister.

According to the stakeholders, a lot of work awaits the minister in the areas of funding, airport development, establishment of flag carriers, Bilateral Air Services Agreements, protection and support for indigenous airlines, to give the industry a new direction.

Chairman, House Committee on Aviation, Nnolim Nnaji, who described Sirika’s reappointment as good for continuity, expects the minister to hit the ground running because of his familiarity with the terrain.

“There is so much to be done within a short time to prepare the industry for the challenges posed by the emerging African Continental Free Trade Area, so we don’t need a new person that will require a lot of time to learn the ropes,” he said.

The lawmaker representing Nkanu East and West Federal Constituency, Enugu State, also expressed happiness that the minister came at a time the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria was rehabilitating the Enugu Airport runway.

He urged the minister, whom he said understood the problems associated with the airport, to use his knowledge as a seasoned aviator to ensure that the right things were done immediately because of the importance of the airport to the South East.

“I am sure he will be interested in finding out how the Enugu Airport runway failed within six years of commissioning and believe he will assist our committee, during our investigation, in unravelling the circumstances that led to the collapse of the runway,” he added.

While congratulating Sirika on his reappointment, Nnajiassured him of the cooperation of his committee towards a safe, viable and reliable air transport industry for the country. He stressed that he welcomed his new portfolio as a substantive aviation minister, which, according to the lawmaker, will enable the minister to be focused on the aviation industry.

The aviation committee chairman further made case for adequate funding of the industry because of its strategic role in stimulating the economy.

Nnaji, who expressed concern over the glaring dominance of foreign airlines on the nation’s major international routes, said the legislative arm of government would work closely with the executive arm to correct the imbalance.

President of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative, Dr. Gbenga Olowo, said the minister needed to do more as he had barely two years to deliver.

Olowo said, “I do not envy him for the arduous tasks ahead because he has said so much in the past four years and expectations are so high. These four years have no room for rhetorics. In fact, 2019 is already gone and 2023 is an election year. He has barely 24 months to write his name in gold.”

He, therefore, advised Sirika to put all his energy on measurable deliverables.

He said, “This is doable judging from the case study of Ghana within a span of four years. There should be two or three very strong flag carriers (along geopolitical, geo-economic zones) who should parade minimum airworthy fleet of 25A/C each at a growth rate of 2.5 per cent annually to compete strongly and achieve benefits latent in AfCFTA.”

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