Amaechi: Why FG suspended Nigeria Air project

Rotimi Amaechi
Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi

Outgoing Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi on Thursday said the proposed national carrier, Nigeria Air, was suspended by the Federal Government because members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) were divided on the modalities for its establishment.

The Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika last September announced suspension of the proposed national carrier called ‘Nigeria Air’.

Speaking during his valedictory press briefing in Abuja on Thursday, Amaechi stated that the project has not been abandoned.

He said, “On national carrier, (the) cabinet is divided on the issue of modality. There are those who believe that the Federal Government should invest and then we can sell the equity later.

“There are also those who believe that no, and from day one they say let us get investors in and give them the franchise of Nigeria Airways or Air Nigeria or whatever it is called.

“That is where we are and that is what held it down. But as for whether it is still in our plan, it is and has not been abandoned.”

Amaechi also revealed that China has insisted that Nigeria opens a sinking fund and an escrow account to ease repayment of the loans for the construction of rail projects.

The Minister, while emphasising the need to heed to the suggestions made by the Chinese, charged the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Transportation, Sabiu Zakari to ensure the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) opens the required accounts.

He said, “Permanent secretary, hold him (NRC boss) to that instruction. The instruction is that all the money you get from Kaduna-Abuja railway every month put it in an account.

“Remove the cost of operation. Whatever remains, let us start paying back. Let’s develop a sinking fund or an escrow account where we pay that money into, so that we can on our own start the payment before the Federal Government starts paying.

“Why I say this is because when we got to China, they insisted because of what they experienced with Kenya, Somalia and Sudan on their inabilities to pay back.

“They insisted that we must open two kinds of accounts; an escrow account and a sinking fund account. The sinking fund account will require that every year, we will put money there which is for the repayment of the loan while the money for the management of that operation will be put in the escrow account.

“Nothing has been repaid for now but I gave them the instruction that the money be saved in the required account but I’m not sure it has been implemented up till now.”