The Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, on Monday defended the budget proposal of the ministry before members of the Senate Committee on Aviation at the National Assembly Complex, Abuja.
While defending the budget proposal, Sirika lamented absence of a national carrier in the country in spite of its burgeoning local aviation market. The situation, he said, makes the setting up of a national carrier by the Federal Government imperative.
”We have to suspend the earlier plans for the national carrier for strategic reasons. The move was not killed. Provisions have to be made to continue to fund activities of advisers and so on, to ensure that it is delivered.
”The carrier will be delivered within the life of this administration, this I can assure you. It is not forgotten by government. It will continue and we are doing everything we can to deliver it,” he said.
The minister, however, stated that the carrier would not be funded solely by government but will be a public-private-partnership project.
“The private sector will lead and deliver while the government will play its role. Viability funding is also being addressed. After that, then the full business case which is the implementation stage. It is at that point that it will be advertised for people to come in and participate,” he said.
He assured that the process of selecting private sector operators of the proposed national carrier will be transparent.
The minister lamented that besides the huge revenue loss due to absence of a national carrier, Nigerians still pay exorbitantly to use air carriers belonging to other countries.
According to him, one of the major ways to save Nigerians of exorbitant airfares is to have a national carrier.
”When I was in the House of Representatives in 2006, we did invite British Airways to discus and the answer we got was that they charge exorbitantly because Nigerians can afford it.
”They charge these fees without corresponding challenge. It is very difficult for the ministry to tell entrepreneurs what they should charge.
”This is the whole importance of having a national carrier. It is about competition. Nigerians are highly mobile people with very huge businesses. You find out that the first class and business class is always full,” he said.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Aviation, Sen. Adamu Aliero, commended the minister for his efforts at repositioning the Nigerian aviation sector.
He, however, said that the sector was capable of generating huge revenue for the country if well harnessed.
He advised the minister to engage more often with critical stakeholders including the National Assembly for advice in the discharge of his duties.
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